Concrete Rose

Authored by Angie Thomas
Published by Walker Books

Concrete Rose – Angie Thomas’s prequel to her classic The Hate U Give, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Maverick as he tries to leave behind a life of drug dealing and go straight despite being the son of a King Lord.

In Concrete Rose Thomas writes from the male perspective and succeeds spectacularly. As Mr Wyatt, Maverick’s employer and impromptu mentor, says:

“Son, 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. 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.”

The novel begins with Maverick finding out he is the father of a three-month-old baby. ‘My life got thrown in a blender and I’m left with something I don’t recognize.” The reader then sees how he struggles and how his friendships change as he tries to negotiate a world in which masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power. He bravely attempts to walk away from that destructive dynamic. Yet, despite the challenges, Maverick grows into fatherhood with the support of his family and there are many tender interactions with his son.

Maverick’s mother also provides many examples of authentic and witty banter. When picking him up after basketball, she greets him: ‘“Hey, ba–” She cover her nose. “Damn, boy! You ripe! What you doing so musty?”’ Before meeting the mother of Maverick’s baby she says: ‘“Lord. We gon’ have our hands full with this girl.”’ And when Maverick is forced to explain himself to his father who is in prison: ‘“Your son has something to tell you, Adonis,” she says. His son. Ma act like I lose her DNA when I screw up.’

As soon as the reader’s ear tunes in to the language of the characters in Concrete Rose, the lyricism flows. Angie Thomas’s skilful use of dialogue and the celebration of the richness of Black Language in her writing provides a rich foundation to explore how identity is conceived through language expression as April Baker-Bell demonstrates in her references to The Hate U Give in her academic study Linguistic Justice.

The exchanges between Maverick and his family and friends are full of humour and compassion. Thomas ensures that the reader has an almost instant bond with Maverick. He uses the word ‘coup’ with his friends as they try to take control of the drug dealing in the area and then he has to explain it to them, I did wonder if Angie Thomas has ever had this line thrown at her: “Yep,” Junie talk around a mouthful of fries. “You read too many books, Mav. Do something better with your time.”’  It felt to me like an insider’s joke.

Anyway, I am certainly glad that this exceptional storyteller is not doing anything better with her time. The three novels The Hate U Give, On The Come Up and now Concrete Rose should be in every secondary school library as they are already central in the field of YA literature.