I'm not going to lie. I was terrified going into Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas's prequel to the wildly successful The Hate U Give. Just 9 months ago, there was another prequel to a much-loved book, again focusing on a young male protagonist, and I hated it, calling it the 'prequel nobody asked for'. (Yes, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I'm talking about you). I am extremely happy to say that my fears were completely unwarranted, Concrete Rose is superb and an easy five-stars from me.
Concrete Rose takes us back to the fictional setting of Garden Heights, this time focusing on Starr's father Maverick Carter. Maverick has just turned seventeen and he has just discovered that he is a father too. Unable to cope and needing a break, Maverick's one-time hookup Iesha leaves her new born baby with Maverick as soon as the paternity test confirms he is the father. Now Maverick must learn to grow up quickly while navigating his final years of school and his membership of the King Lords gang.
He must also decide whether a life of crime and easy drug money is the life he wants for his child, especially when events take a tragic turn and gang violence comes to his front door.
I enjoyed everything about Concrete Rose. I loved that it was written in Maverick's own voice, done so well that I could almost hear his accent. I realised that as a young, black teenager from a lower-income background, Maverick's is a perspective that we so rarely get to read about in YA books. More of this please.
Maverick's character development throughout the novel and his weighing up of choices amongst his increasingly dwindling options is incredible to read. Angie Thomas provides a unique window into late 90s gang culture, highlighting the allure and often necessity of joining a gang.
Ultimately, Concrete Rose is an addictive read with a powerful message about fatherhood, support and role models. Maverick is surrounded by strong men, including his father who is in prison and his next-door neighbour Mr Wyatt, and each character is explored for both their strengths and flaws.
I've noted that many readers are comparing Concrete Rose to The Hate U Give and On The Come Up but I felt I couldn't really do this. Angie Thomas has a gift of really bringing her characters to life and I felt so intimately acquainted with Starr, Bri and Maverick that choosing between the books felt like choosing between human beings, each with their own unique story to tell. I can't choose a favourite but I can say I'm ready to read Angie Thomas's grocery list by now, so invested am I in her writing.
I give Concrete Rose a superb five out of five stars and recommend to fans of Angie Thomas and lovers of superior own-voices young adult fiction.
I received an electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley. I will always provide an honest review, whether books are provided to me or purchased by me.
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