Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas

I feel like I’m taking a risk reviewing this book. I honestly felt the same way when I reviewed The Hate U Give, the book that paved the way for the story of Concrete Rose.

After all, some might say, how can a middle-class white woman review experiences that she has never gone through or comment on some characters’ choices through the lens of her own socioeconomic experience?

Well, I am not here to get on a soapbox or engage in politics. I am merely here to comment on whether this story kept me interested, had relatable characters, and let me learn something from it. I had a good feeling about this book after The Hate U Give enthralled me so, and let’s just say Angie Thomas has not lost her moxy at all.

Seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter lives a normal life in the Garden Heights neighborhood, but soon finds out he is a father. On top of school and work, Maverick now has to look after an infant he has no idea how to raise. But gang-related drama further turns Maverick’s world upside-down, and he will have to make some tough choices to keep his family safe and learn to be an upstanding man in his community.

For context, Maverick is the father of Starr, the heroine of The Hate U Give. It is interesting to see him as a dumb-in-a-teenage-way seventeen-year-old. He is still a good and loving person, but he clearly has some growing up to do, which makes his character so engaging. You see where he’s coming from when he complains, but you also know that he will have to man up and do the right thing anyway.

Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but watching poor Maverick try so hard and struggle to raise his son further endeared him to me. I remember thinking when I was seventeen that I was pretty much grown up, but when you get a little wiser and realize that you were literally still a kid at that age…it makes you want to hug the poor kid when he has to make some decisions no seventeen-year-old should.

Still, it is part and parcel that the main character continues to struggle throughout the book, which definitely leads to some compelling growth for Maverick.

He is involved in a gang, so of course, there are certain dangers he must overcome. While the camaraderie among some of the members is palpable, you also know that there are some dangerous ones that Maverick should watch for. It’s especially tense if you remember what happened to the gang in The Hate U Give.

Luckily, though, you do not need to have read The Hate u Give to enjoy this book. It does enhance the experience if you have because you see little reminders here of what’s to come in that book. And once again, the emotional stakes are pretty high. You feel proud of some characters and quite sad for others. I’m not sure if it had quite the same emotional gut-punch as The Hate U Give, but I really should not compare the two books too much.

I should say that although I am older than Maverick by several years, his struggle is real! No matter your age, you sometimes have to make tough decisions and pull through things that you really wish you didn’t have to face. But the thing is that no amount of talking and suggesting can make you do something, unless you want to do it for yourself. 

Let’s just say that I was facing things in my own life I really didn’t want to while reading this book, and its story reminded me of that simple truth. 

Ha, and some people say that books are not somehow magic! Anyway…
As is, Concrete Rose is still a masterful example of Angie Thomas’s talent. Who’s to say if we will have any more stories from Garden Heights, but I hope she will keep wowing the world with her honest and lively characters.

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