Book Review: A truly powerful young adult book
In 2017 Angie Thomas burst into the world of young adult fiction with her debut novel The Hate U Give. It knocked my socks off.
The Hate U Give is a stunning story full of hope - the tale of Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl who is the only witness to the shooting of her friend Khalil by a white police officer, and her difficult journey to finding a way to speak out.
It is also something of a parenting manual - Lisa and Maverick are Starr’s parents, and the way they support her through this impossible journey blew me away. That’s the thing about reading young adult books as a grown-up, you identify more with the parents than the teenagers.
So when I heard Thomas was writing a prequel, the story of Maverick as a young man, I was on tenterhooks. Concrete Rose takes us back to 17 years before the events of The Hate U Give, when Maverick is still at school, just getting together with the wonderful Lisa, and struggling with his involvement in the King Lords, the gang his father led before he went to prison.
It doesn’t disappoint. Every single cliché about young black men in America is turned on its head here - Maverick has some huge challenges to deal with, challenges that would see most people give up or take the path of least resistance, but he battles to find a different way.
He musters every ounce of strength, goodness and humour he has to stand up to peer pressure on a scale most of us can’t imagine, as he tries to build a good life for himself and the people he loves.
We fall head over heels in love with Maverick over the course of this book - and knowing the man and the father he will be in 17 years time only adds more power to the story.
If you have any doubt that young adult books are some of the best, most powerful and well-written fiction around at the moment, then pick up either of these books by Thomas and prepare to be convinced.