Well, though I did enjoy this book, I didn't love it as much as The Hate U Give. I could not help making comparisons between Starr and Bri (the main character in this one) and also about the story-lines. I think in the end that Bri was more frustrating to me as a reader. She really doesn't listen to anyone, though in the end that causes her to forge her own path that can lift her family up out of poverty. However, how realistic is it for many teens to go out and become rap superstars? Should that be a dream that is pushed? Do we hurt our youths with them seeing millionaire and billionaire rappers out there and think they need just that and forget about school? I think in the end Thomas was pushing for that happy ever after and I thought she was more realistic about things with how she ended "The Hate U Give."
Bri is dealing with the effects in this book from the fallout of story-lines in "The Hate U Give". The not guilty verdict of the police officer and the rioting cost her neighborhood grocery stores and jobs. One of those jobs affected is her mother's were her job is cut and now Bri's family is dealing with more even more issues surrounding paying rent, providing enough food to eat, gas and heat. Bri has dreams though of becoming a rapper and a superstar that will provide her mother and brother with enough so they don't have to struggle anymore. Though two of Bri's childhood best friends do very well at their school. She often is in trouble for her "attitude" and isn't doing her best in her PSAT courses. She has dreams of going toe to toe in "The Ring" and winning against other underground rappers.
I have known many boys and girls who have wanted to become rappers and who also wrote very good raps and in the end didn't get that break they needed. Heck, my brother was one of them and even traveled to MTV back in the day and battled. He got to the semi-finals and didn't end up getting the final call back, but I was very proud of him for pursuing what he wanted. So Bri's aspirations were not a shocker to me. I think what shocked me was that she was hanging her hat on making it. We find out her father was an underground legend until he was murdered. You would think that would make her hesitant at going forward with it, but she only seems to think on her father if someone is getting in her face about it and when we get to a later story-line about her getting his chain to wear.
So Bri was written pretty consistently the whole way through and we get to see her feelings about her family, her friends, her school, her lot in life. The raps we get to read I thought were great here and there and a few I thought were just okay. I do wish that Thomas had touched more about how black girls are seen. What does it mean to be called "angry" by other people and showed Bri pushing back on those tropes. She doubled down on her anger to a point that sometimes I was ready to shake her.
The secondary characters though we do get to delve into a bit. Bri's older brother is struggling after graduating college and not being able to find work. Her mother is a recovering addict who fought to get her children back and is still paying for what she did with regards to her in-laws. Bri's best friends seem to come in and out of the story-line with Thomas trying to echo student grassroots organizations like she did in "The Hate U Give". Bri's aunt and that whole story-line was a big old miss with me. I just felt like Thomas was trying to push too many ideas into one book.
The writing was a bit uneven here and there (usually when seguing into Bri's raps) and then the flow dragged a bit as well. Still written very well, I just think it could have been tightened up a bit.
Unlike with "The Hate U Give" where you see a blended African American family that loves each other and will do what they can for each other. Thomas takes a look at a single mother struggling to provide for her two children. Both of these books takes a look at modern African American families though I thought that Thomas had a stronger message in the first book.
The ending as I said above was a bit too happily ever after for me. But maybe Thomas wanted to show young black girls and boys that they don't have to defer their dreams, you keep pushing even if everyone says they are unrealistic.