Author of the week
Angie Thomas isn’t ready to give her audience just what they want, said Kerri Jarema in Bustle.com. Following the huge success of The Hate U Give, her fiction debut, the Jackson, Miss., native chose to write a follow-up featuring a new teenage heroine but the same candor about drugs and gang violence that got the first novel banned by some school districts. It was, she says, a form of rebellion. “Everything that people said they loved about The Hate U Give, I did the opposite. And everything that people said made them uncomfortable about The Hate U Give, I wanted to do it even more.” On the Come Up returns to the same fictional urban neighborhood where responsible, community-oriented Starr witnessed a police shooting. But the protagonist this time is a rapper who puts her own dreams first. And censorship becomes her biggest hurdle.
Well, that, and a challenge Thomas knows even better, said Tim Lewis in The Observer (U.K.). When the author was a teenager, her mother lost her job, pushing the household to near destitution. “We were living off the benefits my grandmother received,” she says. “Even with that, there were days when we didn’t know if we’d have enough food.” To find the courage to share all that, Thomas, 31, looked to the rappers she loved at the time, truth tellers like Tupac Shakur. “Hip-hop was how I saw myself when I didn’t see myself in books,” she says. Of course, the more she writes now, the better the chance that today’s young readers will find honest reflections of themselves in fiction. “I don’t want to be phony,” she says. “I want to be real with kids even when it makes people uncomfortable.” ■