Book Review: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
I think this is the first blog post on here that is fully dedicated to a single book. Concrete Rose moved me so much that I felt the need to write all about my takeaways. This book was a highly anticipated 2021 read for me. I checked it out from my public library well before its publishing date and its been in my possession since January. It wasn’t until I finished the book that I realized I hadn’t even read the synopsis for it. I loved Maverick’s character in The Hate U Give and was eager to read about his past. With Concrete Rose, I learned that I’m a sucker for character driven stories. I’m so mad at myself for taking this long to read it. Here are my broken down thoughts:
Thoughts on the writing: The writing in this book brought me back to those days in high school when you’re just chilling with your friends and we take turns telling stories. It was filled with humor and the banter between Maverick and his friends was genuinely wholesome. This book is extremely fast paced. Angie Thomas knows how to end a chapter in a way that forces you to continue reading. Keep in mind, this is a prequel. I know where Maverick ends up in The Hate U Give but I still wanted to learn more about him. I read this book in a day. It was sad, emotional, dense, and some parts comical. At one point, I thought of this book as a warm 90s hug. The lingo, the described outfits, the musical references were unapologetically black.
Thoughts on my favorite characters: Maverick- was admittedly a dumb 17 year old. There’s not a single teenager on earth that makes the best decisions 100% of the time. Though his poor decisions frustrated me, it's his responses to the consequences of those decisions that made him a favorite character. He learned from his mistakes and towards the end of the book, though it was difficult, he learned to look beyond the next 24 hours. He was looking to see how his decisions significantly impacted his future. It was refreshing to read because often times we see teenagers in his situation acting solely on impulse with no regard to repercussions. Dre was one of my other favorite characters. He was involved in certain unagreeable activities but he didn’t endorse them. He was Maverick’s role model even though he wanted him to “do as he says and not as he does”. He pushed Maverick to be better despite their circumstances. Finally, Mr. Wyatt: I would love to believe that every hood has a Mr. Wyatt. A stubborn old head who loves his community more than life itself. He’s someone who has been there long enough and hasn’t succumbed to his surroundings. More importantly, he serves as a paternal surrogate for many of the children in the community. Though he is tough, loving and understanding, the children are better for it. One of my favorite quotes from this book came from him and I’ll reference it below.
Thoughts on the plot: The “hood” can be a beautiful place. It is as intricate as any neighborhood. There is poverty, struggle, and yes, crime (like every other neighborhood). But there is community, love, family, history, purpose, security, familiarity, and real life humans. This book reminded me to continue to acknowledge the complexities of living in the hood. Life isn’t as cookie cutter as we think it is and what those on the outside see as black and white, start looking grey when life deals you other cards. I think what people neglect to understand is that people like Maverick, King, Lisa, Iesha, Junie, Rico and all of them are just kids. Their circumstances rocket them to adulthood quicker than kids in other communities but that does not mean they forfeit their right to be treated as kids. Every teenager thinks they’ve matured past correction, they think they have at all figured out, and they don’t always think things through. But you know what, not every teenager is growing up in a neighborhood like The Garden. Not every teenager feels the urge to work to provide for their family. Not every teenager is in survival mode. Some teenagers get a pass. Some get the privilege of being labeled as “just a kid”. Black and Brown kids don’t get to be dumb and make mistakes. So, let Black and Brown kids be kids. Let us try to rehabilitate and not punish them for their mistakes.
Favorite Parts: Every aspect of this book was an ode to black male vulnerability. The black men in this book cried, hugged each other, spoke about their feelings with one another, openly loved on their significant others, and empathized with each other. And I was 1000% here for it! I think Angie Thomas intentionally wrote the characters to be this way. On the cover, you see Maverick in a du-rag and for whatever reason, his outfit, his stance, his size, and his skin color evokes fear from people. But when you read the book, you experience how human he is. How human all black men are, both young and old. We live in a world where black men are feared first and understood second. In this book we are able to witness men being weak and embracing their weakness. They can’t be strong all the time even though the world expects them to be. Mr. Wyatt said:
“Son, one of the biggest lies ever told is that black men don’t feel emotions. Guess it's easier to see us as not human when you think we’re heartless. Fact of the matter is, we feel things. Hurt, pain, sadness, all of it. We got a right to show them feelings as much as anybody else.”
And that’s that on that.
Overall recommendation: Read Concrete Rose then read The Hate U Give.