Set seventeen years prior to the events of the award-winning novel, The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights in Concrete Rose and immerses readers in her incredible writing once again.
In Concrete Rose, Starr’s parents Mav and Lisa are high school sweethearts. Seventeen-year-old Maverick “Mav” Carter is a member of the King Lords, a gang his father was a legend in until he landed behind bars. With his mother working multiple jobs, Mav takes up dealing for the King Lords to support his family—a family that’s growing with the news that Mav is a father. In the face of increased financial responsibilities and the grief brought on by the loss of a loved one, Mav must navigate shifting relationships, loss, and identity.
Addressing generational cycles such as trauma and its intersection with race and class, Angie Thomas masterfully blends powerful scenes and heavy issues with a plot characterized by her immersive writing style that has readers rushing to read every last word. Mav’s coming-of-age is influenced by his young fatherhood and his own father’s looming legacy. The class differences also exist in the tensions between Mav and Lisa’s family.
While Concrete Rose centers Maverick’s story, those who have read The Hate U Give are able to see the past of influential side characters such as King, Mav’s best friend, and Carlos, Lisa’s brother. Tracing these roots peels back the curtains on these characters’ backgrounds and motivations a bit more, in addition to highlighting cyclical patterns of oppression paralleled in Thomas’s other works. The combination of the captivating writing style, skillful character development, and the slower pace of plot (as compared to THUG and On the Come Up) make Concrete Rose a compelling read. It also functions very well as a prequel.
I loved getting to see more of characters in the Garden Heights community, such as Mr. Wyatt and how they influence Maverick’s future in The Hate U Give. While Concrete Rose focuses on Maverick’s narrative, Thomas still gives us glimpses into the struggles and strengths of her other characters, regardless of their importance to the main plot. The attention to detail, especially as a book published in 2021 but set in 1998, had me trying to make connections regarding parallels of the Garden Heights community in her other books.
I would recommend Concrete Rose just as strongly as I would any of Angie Thomas’ other books. If you haven’t read The Hate U Give or On the Come Up yet, then Thomas is an author to check out soon. If her books aren’t already nestled comfortably in your reading pile, then they belong at the top of your to-read list.
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas was published on Jan. 12, 2021.