Concrete Rose, written by Angie Thomas, published in 2021. (Yep, it’s hot off the press!) This book is the prequel to The Hate U Give (2017), a Printz Honor book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book and On the Come Up (2019). This book features the story of Maverick Carter. You might remember him as the fun-loving, yet serious father of Starr Carter. The story follows Maverick’s senior year at Garden High, a year certainly full of ups and downs that includes becoming a father. One of the things I loved the most about this book is revisiting many of the characters from The Hate U Give. Having the added information about events that took place nearly 20 years before Starr was born adds depth to the characters. One of the things I disliked about this book prior to reading it was the cover. I felt the red was too bold and it didn’t draw me in, despite red being my favorite color. However, ¾ of the way through, the cover made perfect sense, in many, many ways. The book is yet another reminder that everyone is going through something and we are best not to judge.
When I was 17, my parents took me to New York City on spring break. We splurged on a Broadway show and saw Ragtime, a musical centered around racial injustice in America in the early 20th century. Never before had my eyes been so open to the mistreatment and brutality directed at people of color. The fact that I hadn’t considered this until my late teens is the very definition of white privilege.
And it’s exactly why books like Angie Thomas’ best-selling, award-winning The Hate U Give are so important. For people of color, this book is an important moment of representation, a chance to see their lived experience in print and on movie screens. For readers like me, who grew up in an upper middle class, mostly white suburb, it is a glimpse into the life of a black teenager living in an impoverished neighborhood. We cannot begin to dismantle systemic white supremacy until we recognize and acknowledge the effects of generations of discrimination, oppression, and violence. This book is just such an opportunity to educate ourselves.
I think some of the most exciting work happening in children’s literature is found in the Young Adult niche. A couple of my most favorite reads from the past year are young adult books. They are stories that dig deep into the human spirit. Plus, I love that they typically read a bit quicker than many books geared toward adults–perfect for summer days when you’ve got one eye on the kids in the pool and one eye devouring your book. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon is just such a book.