Concrete Rose is Angie Thomas’ latest book. It was released earlier this year in January 2021. The book follows seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter throughout his senior year of high school. While that may not seem interesting on the surface, his life definitely has a lot of twists and turns throughout the book. His life is turned upside down near the beginning of the book, which shapes the rest of the plot. Additionally, Maverick is part of a gang that goes by the name King Lords which his father and other family members used to be a part of, so he believes that it is part of his blood.
Thomas wrote Concrete Rose as a prequel to her first book, The Hate U Give. Maverick is the father of Starr, who is the protagonist in The Hate U Give. So, readers of Concrete Rose are given a chance to learn about his life before Starr arrived on the scene. Readers are also able to learn more about the lives of other characters that are in The Hate U Give as well. It was really interesting to be able to have a closer look at the life of characters in the debut novel. It helped give more context to who they are and why they make the decisions that they do.
Thomas’ writing allows readers to be able to connect with and relate to the characters in a way that truly makes one care about what happens to them. Concrete Rose deals with the personal complications and issues that can and do arise in anyone’s life. One occurrence is when Maverick attends a school football game with a few of his friends. While there, he admits that “for the first time in months, [he] feel[s] like [himself] again,” (Thomas 169). This is something that everyone can most likely relate to at least once during their life since we all have moments that make us feel as though we are someone we cannot recognize.
Another instance occurs when Maverick loses a family member due to a robbery turned murder. After this happens, Maverick says that he is “doing [his] best to live like he wanted,” (Thomas 174). This is something that anyone who has lost someone close to them can relate to. Once the person passes, everything revolves around living life in an effort to make them proud. So, Thomas did a great job at capturing that feeling throughout the book. Another instance that deals with mourning a lost loved one happens when Maverick visits the grave of his family member. While there, he says that “sometimes [grief] pull[s] me out to sea and take[s] me under,” (Thomas 245). Anyone who has lost anyone should find this notion extremely relatable. When Maverick gets ready to leave, he points out how his “life still going on and he [is] just something for grass to grown on top of,” (Thomas 247). So, Thomas has done a really good job at capturing how people feel while losing someone they love.
Thomas also tackles the realities of racism in an overt way throughout Concrete Rose. One instance occurs when Maverick steps into an elevator and a woman clutches her purse closer to her. Maverick makes the point that “people [are] way more scared of [him] than they oughta be,” (Thomas 229). This is something that many Black Americans have to deal with on a daily basis. So, while this book is set during the late nineties, it shows how little progress has been made in some areas in America.
All that being said, this book admittedly was not as strong as The Hate U Give. Thomas’ debut novel tackled modern issues, such as police brutality and the way the media shapes people’s perceptions of these events. Her latest bookfollowed a teenager throughout his senior year of high school while he grappled with trying to figure out how to get out of the King Lords. However, his decision to leave the gang is intertwined with the life altering challenges that he has been presented with. Due to this, the focus seems to shift from gang life to personal matters for a majority of the book. While The Hate U Give also had personal matters that the protagonist had to deal with, it’s primary focus was the issues of modern systemic racism. So, The Hate U Give was more a compelling read. After reading that book, Concrete Rose was slightly underwhelming. Although it provided background and brought up real life issues, it just simply was not as captivating as Thomas’ debut novel. However, if one has read The Hate U Give then it helps provide some interesting background on those characters.