Writing a sequel to a successful book is always a big risk to take. Even more so if that book is a smash bestseller called The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas took the plunge nevertheless—and delivered another masterpiece.

In THUG, all eyes are on Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl who finds her voice after witnessing her friend getting shot by a white police officer. Concrete Rose is set 17 years before the events of THUG and focuses on Starr’s father Maverick. When we meet him, he’s 17, broke, aimless and he’s just become a father to a child who’s the result of a one-night-stand. Having to balance his new responsibilities of fatherhood with high school, his job, his girlfriend Lisa and the gang, Maverick is facing a challenging time ahead.

Concrete Rose explores themes of (Black) masculinity and structural racism. Growing up as the son of a gang legend, Maverick thinks that to be a real man, he has to show strength and stand his ground. In an environment where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked, you’re not allowed to show any sign of weakness. But with no money, job and a baby who needs to be fed, Mav struggles to keep up this image of a Black man that society has created. And so he inevitably comes to the point where he has to decide whether this is the way he wants to keep on living, or whether he wants to set a good example for his son and redefine manhood for himself.

“Son, one of the biggest lies ever told is that black men don’t feel emotions. Guess it’s easier not to see us as human when you think we’re heartless. Fact of the matter is, we feel things. Hurt, pain, sadness, all of it. We got a right to show them feelings as much as anybody else.”

Thomas has a fascinating talent for crafting characters that feel incredibly real. Her characters are ripe with flaws and weaknesses, but they’re also loyal, humorous and likeable—in short, human. Maverick is a character who’s easy to condemn from the outside, but if you knew his story, you’d also know that it’s more complex than you’d think. Yes, he’s made some pretty bad decisions, but does that make him a bad person? By throwing us right into the story and allowing us to see things from the perspective of a young Black man, Thomas invites us to always look at the why and see a person’s actions in context. Whether or not you understand Mav’s actions, you’ll find yourself rooting for him all along.

“Roses, they’re fascinating li’l things. Can handle more than folks think. I’ve had roses in full bloom during an ice storm. They could easily survive without any help. We want them to thrive. We’ll have to prune them, things like that”

Concrete Rose is a brilliant story that sucks you in from the very first page. If you’ve loved The Hate U Give, this book will surely not disappoint. Gripping, moving and brutally honest, this book is an absolute must-read.

Have you read Concrete Rose? How did you like it? Let me know in the comment section below!

6 thoughts on “Back to Garden Heights: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

  1. I’ve read The Hate You Give, On The Come Up and Concrete Rose — all of which I absolutely loved. The story and character development is amazing and I got so drawn into caring about them and all their complexities. I’m so glad you reviewed Concrete Rose as everyone should read it!

    Liked by 1 person

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