3.5 stars

THE PLOT: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas is a young-adult novel about a black boy who becomes a father at seventeen years old. Stuck in an underprivileged neighbourhood, Maverick was pretty much born into a gang. His father was the don of the King Lords and has been behind bars for the last few years, so it’s up to Mav to take up his father’s legacy. But when Mav learns a one-night stand with his best friends’ girl has led to a pregnancy, he has to decide whether to leave the gang to care for his son. A prequel to the best-selling ‘The Hate You Give’, this book depicts how Starr’s father became the man he is.

RATING: This book was so hard to rate! It is very well written and perfectly crafted for the genre. Angie Thomas certainly knows how to tell a gripping story and is a skilled writer. However, this book didn’t get under my skin and make me love it. It felt like a lacquered impression of 90’s “hood” movies, rather than a real story with real characters. I don’t know… I just didn’t love it enough to warrant a full four stars, so I’m giving it three and a half.

GOOD BITS: This book is a perfect example of how to write a YA novel. It is well-structured, with all of the plot twists at the right moment. There are enough sub plots to keep you interested and they all feed into the main theme. There is a very clear character arc, and each of the secondary characters either help or hinder Maverick’s growth. But all of this perfectness felt a bit formulaic. I do love a prequel and my favourite aspects were how the author seeded in little details from ‘THUG’.

NOT SO GOOD BITS: This book felt a bit too shiny for me. I just feel like teen movies from the 90’s have been distilled into a perfect allegory of a story. Even though there is a very important sad event, there’s no real grit to the story. It felt like a 2020’s impression of the 90’s; rose-tinted glasses and nostalgia. I also wonder if the fact it’s a prequel, and therefore the reader knows the ending, removes some intrinsic tension and suspense?

OVERALL: If you love diverse YA and 90’s throwbacks, I’d recommend this novel. While it didn’t absolutely blow me away, it was an easy read and many others have given this book five stars. I’d recommend it to lovers of ‘Ace of Spades’ by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé and ‘The Cost of Knowing’ by Brittany Morris.

Thank you to the Tandem Collective and Walker Books UK for my gifted copy as part of the Concrete Rose readalong.

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