I didn’t mean to read this entire book in a day, but…
I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Concrete Rose, Maverick Carter thinks his life is pretty stable—he makes money by working for the King Lords, he has a wonderful girlfriend, and he’s about to finish high school. But all that changes when he hears from a one night stand, and learns that he is a father. The arrival of a baby turns every aspect of his life upside down, threatening his financial stability, his relationship, and his grades. More than that, parenthood also shows him that perhaps “being a man” doesn’t mean what he thought.
This book is set seventeen years before The Hate U Give, following Starr’s father, Maverick. And wow, was this an excellent story.
Maverick is a great protagonist. You really feel for him, as his life is upended and he is left feeling adrift and overwhelmed. He’s such a sympathetic, but also strong, character; you can’t help but want him to succeed. His mother, his girlfriend Lisa, and his cousin Dre are also so well written. Actually, everyone is, but those three are my favorites. The cast feels real and the bonds between characters are complex and layered.
As I mentioned above, I didn’t mean to read this as fast as I did. I had a day off, started the book, and then I blinked and was halfway done. But something exciting had just happened, and I couldn’t very well stop there. When I eventually came back to reality was only when I was turning the last page. This book had me and didn’t want to let go, I guess. It just has such an engaging, emotional, fast-paced plot.
I also loved the themes presented here, that you don’t have to carry a problematic family legacy and that masculinity can and should involve being vulnerable and emotional. The complicated issues of working for a gang and living in a poor neighborhood are also handled well. It’s fascinating to see how Garden Heights was before The Hate U Give, though this is definitely a book that can easily be read alone, or first. It’s been a few years since I read Hate, so my memories were a little fuzzy, but I still loved this.
In the end, Concrete Rose is a powerful portrait of a lost but ultimately loving kid. With a fantastic cast of characters, a captivating tale, and brilliantly expressed themes, this is a beautiful and enjoyable book. Maverick may not have everything figured out, but there’s a sense of hope that he leaves you with at the end that I loved. If you haven’t read anything by Angie Thomas yet, this is a great one to try (also, why haven’t you read her stuff yet?!)
Overall rating: 9/10