Title: Concrete Rose
Author: Angie Thomas
This is Angie Thomas’s third book set in Garden Heights, and a prequel to the outstanding The Hate U Give. The story jumps back eighteen years to follow the father of the narrator of The Hate U Give as a seventeen-year-old high-school student. He’s also a drug dealer and member of the King Lords gang, trying to help his mother pay the bills while his father is in prison. With a setup like this, Marverick’s story might sound predictable, but Angie Thomas takes the book in an unexpected direction.
Within the first couple of chapters, a DNA test reveals that Maverick’s friend’s three-month-old baby is actually his. Maverick has to grow up fast, support his child, and make responsible decisions about his life. He has to learn how to take care of a baby, and decide whether to turn his back on the gang, or reply on them for the drug money and protection his family needs.
If you’re expecting a gangland tragedy, or a morality tale, that’s not where the author takes us. Instead, she gives us the messy, real world of a seventeen year old trying to do the right thing, in a community that expects him to take on his father’s role as a leader of the King Lords. Staying in the gang is a dangerous choice, but leaving the King Lords alive is almost impossible. Maverick must navigate the responsibilities of being a father alongside his obligations to the gang.
Through the story and the actions of the characters, Angie Thomas challenges stereotypical perceptions of manhood, and what ‘being a man’ means for people like Maverick in communities like Garden Heights. Through Maverick’s decisions, she explores assumptions about strength, weakness, loyalty, and love in the context of individual lives, families, and the wider community. It’s an engaging story, with characters who feel completely real – flawed, human, and doing their best in the situations they find themselves in.
The book is written in Maverick’s distinctive voice, and the dialect of Garden Heights draws the reader into his first-person, present tense narration. It’s another clever challenge to stereotypical portrayals of black gang members – Maverick proves himself to be intelligent and caring, while telling his story in words many readers will associate with violent films and toxic masculinity.
In Concrete Rose Angie Thomas has created a complex and engaging story, exploring the loyalties and expectations of a young black man as his life is transformed by fatherhood. She challenges readers to re-examine their expectations and prejudices, and to see her characters as people, not statistics. If you’ve read The Hate U Give, this is a wonderful insight into the character of Starr’s father, and how he earned his place in the community of Garden Heights. It’s a challenging and rewarding read.
Have you read Concrete Rose? What did you think of Maverick’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!
Review cross-posted to GoodReads.
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