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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Music, Race, and the American Dream: Female voices will not be silenced.

Who knew that when THE HATE U GIVE debuted two years ago, it will generate a film and numerous accolades to be on the New York Times Bestsellers List for more than 80 weeks. After I finished reading THUG, the first words out of my mouth was, what’s next? And watching many interviews with Ms. Thomas, one of the many inquiries was, what’s the next title of your new book. So, when Ms. Thomas revealed that her sophomore novel would go in a different direction, I was ready to jump in. ON THE COME UP revolves around Bri is a sixteen-year-old up and coming lyric artist in hopes of continuing the legacy of her late father, who was a hip hop legend and become the next legend in the making. Overnight, Bri becomes an internet sensation after posting a rap hit, which sparks controversy. As Bri defeats the odds to execute her dreams as the queen of hip-hop, she battles controversy to accomplish her goal.


Thirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson doesn’t like being teased about her dark skin complexion but accepts it because she wants to belong. Her skin shade isn’t as light as her mother, but like her father, Genesis is taunted at school for having darker skin. The nickname Char, short for charcoal, eggplant, and blackie, These are not terms of endearment. These names make her wince at the sound of hearing a friend reference her. When she’s walking with her friends to her house, everyone sees that there is furniture on the street lawn. A note of panic and heat hit Genesis’s face from embarrassment. Her family faces eviction from their home. From the first chapter, you know that this is not going to be an easy read. Genesis can only begin again if she accepts her beauty that is on the outside. Bri and Genesis are strong female characters that push the limits and take readers to different facets of family life, both good and bad. Both stories are authentic and genuine. Genesis comes home from school, relaxed and happy she takes a shirt and drapes it over her head pretending she has good hair then she goes into her mother’s bathroom, goes into her makeup bag and applies foundation over her skin to make her skin look lighter. (47) Williams and Thomas are master storytellers giving their female characters honesty, humor, and a voice that will not go down quietly.

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Annisha Jeffries About Annisha Jeffries

Annisha Jeffries is the head of the youth services department at Cleveland Public Library. She was a member of the 2007 ALSC Board and served on several selection committees, including the 2018 Caldecott Committee. A 2000-2001 Spectrum Scholarship recipient, Jeffries is currently the Chair of the Norman A, Sugarman Children's Biography Award.
She can be reached at annishamj@gmail.com

Comments

  1. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    I thought GENESIS was pretty strong in character development and theme. Her voice rang true and conveyed the challenges she faced. You get a feel for how the subtle insults from classmates can have as much an impact as getting evicted from her home. The way she kind of talks herself back into hoping for positive things…then does it again after the next misfortune, is inspiring. I don’t that it shines enough in any area to move it towards the top of my 2019 list. I think issues of friendships, self-worth, and school/family dynamics are explored in more distinctive, and I guess more interesting ways in BEST FRIENDS, NEW KID, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, and maybe a couple others. But I’m glad to have GENESIS in my library collection for sure.

  2. Molly Sloan says:

    Genesis Begins Again is such an important book and also so hard. I still cringe when I think about the things she did to her skin and her hair. It was a painful, honest portrayal of teen self image and also a glimpse into the experience of being poor and housing insecure. For all of these reasons I am glad to have it on my shelves and I have recommended it to many readers who are ready for the challenging read. It doesn’t rise to the level of Most Distinguished for me.

    I LOVED On The Come Up. It is really one of my favorite books of the year. Again, it was such a powerful portrayal of a family on the ragged edge of poverty. I love her story about finding her voice and remaining true to herself. I think the language in the book, as authentic and powerful as it is, puts this book above the Newbery age range. I haven’t yet added it to my middle school library collection, even though I do have THUG and it is very popular with my MS readers. I’m glad that I am not on the Newbery committee trying to decide if this is Newbery eligible. I find this to be a very distinguished and a really important book for our kids to have in their hands.

    • Ah — the forever debate over what is or isn’t “above” the age-range. I will not hesitate giving the book to any 13/14 year-old reader. I think the subject matter is all entirely comprehensible for 7th and 8th grade (or even 9th grade since some 9th graders are still 14.) And Angie Thomas’ rap lyrics shine! Last year we saw Long Way Down given a Newbery honor — it definitely does not shy away from “rough” language, and it deals with even headier situations.

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