Book Review: Concrete Rose

Author Angie Thomas | Genre Young Adult | Originally Published 12th Jan 2021 | Page Count 360

This was one of my most anticipated books of 2021 and so I was quick to place an order as soon as it came out. The book is a prequel to Angie Thomas’s bestseller The Hate You Give. Those who have been following my videos regularly might know how much I love The Hate You Give. I have talked so much about the book on this channel and it’s among my top 10 fiction reads of 2020. For those of you who haven’t read the first book, THUG tells the story of a black teenager Starr Carter who witnesses the killing of her best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. The book is a chilling account of racism and police brutality.

In Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas tells the story of Maverick Carter when he was seventeen. Maverick is Starr Carter’s father, from THUG. Maverick was an absolutely incredible character in The Hate U Give and so it was interesting to hear his back story. This book takes place seventeen years before the first one.

Maverick Carter is the seventeen-year old son of an imprisoned drug lord. He finds himself following in his father’s drug-slinging footsteps to earn some quick money to help his mother. His girlfriend Lisa breaks up with him for two weeks and he seeks solace with another girl, Iesha. Little did he know that this would prove to be a turning point of his life! A DNA test proves that he has fathered a baby boy with Iesha. The over-whelmed teenage mom promptly abandons the child to Maverick’s care. With the baby comes all kind of changes to Maverick’s life: a new job which pays less, new schedule and his cousin Dre wants him to stop dealing in drugs. And then comes another jolt! He is expecting another child with his girlfriend Lisa.

The rest of the story follows Maverick’s journey from being an impulsive, self-centered teenager to becoming a loving and responsible father. It’s not an easy path. Maverick has plenty of challenges and struggles along the way but his love for his children helps him in making the right choices. It was equally emotional and entertaining to watch Maverick figure out how to care for his baby boy Seven, and how to restructure his life around being a parent.

It was refreshing to visit Garden Heights again. THUG gave us a glimpse of the neighbourhood. In Concrete Rose, we see how the neighbourhood works. It presents a pretty savvy look at Black neighbourhood…the King, King Lords and the homies. The language of the book might seem a bit difficult at first because the author has used the slang of the neighbourhood which makes it all the more interesting.

The recurring theme in THUG was racial injustice and police misconduct. In Concrete Rose, the underlying themes are gang violence, drug dealing and teenage pregnancies. The author has skillfully dealt with the realities of parenting and how much Maverick’s life changed as a result of parenthood. It’s a rare thing to read the teenage pregnancy storyline through the eyes of the father rather than the mother.

Maverick is such a wonderful character. Although we knew him as a loving father from THUG but he gets his opportunity to shine in Concrete Rose. Despite of all the changes in his life, Mav is still a teenage boy dealing with adolescent issues. But he doesn’t let it cloud his love for his children. From the beginning, we see that he is a fantastic father, despite the circumstances. All the other characters are equally interesting. Angie Thomas has put so much life and character into every single character, be it Lisa, King, Dre or Mav’s parents.

We know more or less quite a lot about Maverick from the first book. His stint with the drug lords, his fathering a child with Iesha and the trouble it causes in his relationship with Lisa…it’s all there in THUG. But I still enjoyed reading a book entirely focused on Maverick. There are not many dramatic moments in the plot but the narrative was still interesting enough to keep me intrigued till the end. You can absolutely read this book without first reading The Hate U Give. In fact, I think it would be better if you read this book first because then there will be no spoilers for you.

The writing is beautiful and poignant. It is emotional and also witty at times. There are some amazing quotes and real life lessons. Angie Thomas has given a powerful message to all the Black boys who are stuck in hopeless situations, who are called worthless and thugs, who find it impossible to chase their dreams. Through Maverick’s story, Angie shows that Black boys from the hood deserve a bright future just like everybody else. All they need is someone to have faith in them and guide them along the way. And above all, they need to believe in themselves and stay hopeful come what may.

My only complaint with the book is that it ended a bit sooner than I expected. I would have liked to see it all the way till Starr’s birth. I wanted to see how Mav got out of the mess with the King. So may be, we could have another sequel, something set between Concrete Rose and THUG. Maybe from Lisa’s POV!

Concrete Rose is not as emotionally hard-hitting as The Hate U Give but still it’s an interesting book which will keep you engaged till the end. Overall, I enjoyed this book. Highly recommended if you are a THUG fan!

My Rating:  4 stars out of 5

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