With his King Lord dad in prison and his mom working two jobs, seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter helps the only way he knows how: slinging drugs. Life’s not perfect, but he’s got everything under control. Until he finds out he’s a father…
Suddenly, it’s not so easy to deal drugs and finish school with a baby dependent on him for everything. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. But when King Lord blood runs through your veins, you don’t get to just walk away.
This is a novel about toxic masculinity, racism, classism. All of these themes entwined to reiterate what it means to be a young Black man living in a society that is determined to see you fail. It’s about defying the odds and becoming better than the societal stereotype. To not falling victim to it all and growing even in the most difficult conditions.
If you loved ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ by Malorie Blackman, then you’ll love Concrete Rose. It’s the prequel to ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas but I don’t think it really matters if you read it before or after. I don’t know what it is about books about boys being incredible fathers to children but I absolutely adore that storyline. Concrete Rose cemented that. Even if it is about babies having babies when they’re meant to be exploring and finding their own footing in life.
Man, I know I loved Maverick Carter in THUG but I simply adored his story in Concrete Rose. Set in 1998, Maverick Carter is seventeen, part of the King Lords and a father to a baby that is heavily dependent on him. Maverick took on being a father even if he was a kid himself. I loved how he got on with it and how Seven, his son, came first regardless of what was happening. Watching his love for Seven grow was so incredibly beautiful. I have to give Angie Thomas all the props because she wrote a story that undoubtedly shaped Maverick into the amazing father he is portrayed to be in THUG.
I adored his narrative and hearing how his relationship with Lisa blossomed even with everything that was working against them. Also, Angie Thomas is a genius because how she managed to slide in subtle ties to both THUG and On The Come Up was phenomenal. She kept every character’s personality the same. Not a single person changed. Lisa was still strong-willed and independent despite her love for Maverick. And, even Ms Rosalie was as steady and warm as she was in THUG. I loved hearing about Maverick’s mother who was mentioned in the previous THUG.
The extended metaphor about roses was incredible – absolutely loved it and I loved how she linked it back to Tupac.
Roses can bloom in the hardest conditions.
Angie Thomas explored so much throughout this story from postnatal depression to revenge. It was really a whirlwind of emotions that she takes you through. However, I loved how everything was brought back to “what does it mean to be man?” and shattering that rhetoric that men, especially Black men, shouldn’t show their emotions because it’s a form of weakness. If anything, showing emotions makes you stronger. Becoming who you are and setting out your own path, is what makes you a man.
“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.”
Maverick’s growth throughout the book reflects the message Angie Thomas wants her male readers to pick up on. That it’s okay to get angry. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to be different to your peers. To not want to follow the path that’s laid out before you.
You will grow even in the most difficult of circumstances and produce the most beautiful of roots.
You can be the rose growing in the concrete.
Also by Angie Thomas: