Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas [Guest Review by Leïla]

Hi Friends, and Happy New Year! I hope you had great holidays and I wish you all the best in 2022 : great reads, good health, tons of love and much success!

Now let’s kick off 2022 with a very special review, written by my first guest here : my sister Leïla!
Some months ago I received an ARC of Concrete rose, graciously sent by the publisher Walker books.
But these last months have been pretty hectic for me, and although I have gifted a copy of The Hate U Give (the novel for which Concrete Rose is a kind of prequel) to Leïla, I have not yet read it myself. As she liked The Hate U Give quite a lot, I sent her my copy of Concrete Rose and asked her if she would like to do a review of it. So without further ado, here is the blurb of the novel as per the publisher website, her fantastic review follows! *proud sister*

From the international phenomenon Angie Thomas comes a hard-hitting return to Garden Heights with the story of Maverick Carter, Starr’s father, set seventeen years before the events of the award-winning The Hate U Give.
The son of a drug king, seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter is negotiating life in Garden Heights as he balances school, slinging dope, and working two jobs while his dad is in prison. He’s got it all under control – until, that is, Mav finds out he’s a father. Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. Loyalty, revenge and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. So when Mav is offered the chance to go straight, it’s an opportunity – in a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing – to prove he’s different and figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.

« I also have to love myself. All of that ‘ride or die’ stuff, it’s nice until you feel like you’re dying from not living »

I remember reading The Hate U Give a few years ago and being overwhelmed by the reality of police brutality and discrimination. As a young black girl, I could identify myself with Starr. So reading her father’s point of view was very interesting and eye-opening. Until now, I never really put myself in a black man’s shoes. 

« […] one of the biggest lies ever told is that Black men don’t feel emotions. Guess it’s easier to not see us as human when you think we’re heartless. »

This sentence struck me and made me think about what society expects from Black men. 

At first, i was taken aback by the english that is used in the book. There is informal English and street slang but it actually made the book more genuine and helped me to immerse in Maverick’s environment even better. 

With his father in prison, and tangled in a gang, seventeen years old Maverick has gone through a lot. The consequences of gun violence are depicted in the book in a moving and empathetic way. When given the chance to get revenge, Maverick remembers his own grief and chooses not to do it.  This part of the book among many others truly moved me and I was glad of his decision : it was like a sparkle of hope and it showed that change was and is possible in those dark situations. 

« Mr Wyatt says grief hit you in waves. Sometimes it pull me out to sea and take me under. No wonder it’s hard to breathe as I cry. »

I also enjoyed how Maverick’s personality defies expectations : his friends tease him because he’s in love or because he reads books but Maverick stays himself and laughs it off.

« You read too many books, Mav. Do something better with your time. » 

Reading concrete rose also allowed me to have an insight into teenage parenthood : being a father of two at only seventeen is far from easy but Maverick takes his responsabilities and demonstrates a lot of maturity. He doesn’t give up and keeps trying. For himself and for his kids. 

« Forget the world; he should have the sun, the moon, and all the stars, and they wouldn’t be enough. »

Adult figures give valuable lessons throughout the book such as the importance of hard work, persevering, being an independent thinker (the origin of the main character’s name) and most importantly the necessity of love. It is therefore a good and inspiring book for teenagers and young adults. 

Although it deals with difficult and sensitive topics, I laughed and had a very good time reading Concrete Rose. 4/5

✒️ and 📸by Leïla

Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas
Published by Walker Books, 12 Jan 2021
336 pages

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