Title: Concrete Rose
Author: Angie Thomas
Book 17 of 2021
Reading Time: 3hrs 21mins
Date Finished: April 28, 2020
Content Warnings: Gun violence, murder, drug sales, drug use, teen pregnancy, physical violence, police brutality (mentioned), death of family member, abortion (discussed), child neglect, racism
What Worked For Me: The setting, the characters, family dynamics
What Didn’t Work For Me: N/A
I read The Hate U Give back in 2018 during my YA Lit class and really enjoyed it. It came perfectly at a time when many of us were discussing police brutality. My group read this as part of our final project and spent a very long time discussing the book. I think I still have the nearly 3 hours of audio recordings that were just me and my group mates, not including the external interviews we did.
When I heard that we’d be getting the prequel, a story focused on Starr’s father instead, I was thrilled. The little we had learned about him in The Hate U Give made me wonder what his life was like and how he avoided falling into the same lifestyle that so many of his friends and family did. And during the peak of my reading productivity, I decided that it was time to pick this up.
Within the first chapter, I knew this was going to be one of my favorites of the year. I absolutely fell in love with the way Mav narrated his life and how funny he was. His reactions felt real, which made him feel real. I mean, realizing that you now have to deal with dirty diapers would elicit all kinds of reactions from any teenager. Didn’t make it any less funny though.
One thing this book does really well is its exploration of what teen parenthood is like and what that means when you grow up around police brutality and gang violence. There’s a lot we tend to assume from reading and watching the news, but there’s nothing like having the voice of a 17-year old boy telling you what he’s going through. How tired he is from learning to balance fatherhood with school. How easy it would be to peddle drugs and illegal goods for extra money to feed his baby and have a few nice things for himself. And what it’s like to lose someone you care about because of the vicious cycle of being in a gang to give yourself something, only to be arrested and have a record that prevents you from working, which leads you back to gang life.
Mav, for all his teenaged whim, is also incredibly insightful. Reading this book was like watching him grow up before me, seeing how he went from a kid with few aspirations to a man who wanted to provide for his family in the best way possible, in the safest way possible. The dynamic between him and his mom was so unique and beautiful. I love how much she pushed him as a person and how she kept reminding him that the decisions he made didn’t affect only him. There was a perfect balance between her helping him and him needing to learn for himself – something I think YA tends to struggle with when portrayed parent-child relationships.
I could have read this book forever. If it was released as an 800 page book, I would have read it. I would keep going because I love Mav’s voice. I loved the way he approached life and how he wasn’t afraid to be honest about things like grief and how much he loved his girlfriend, Lisa.