Angie Thomas inspires readers through vivid characters and realistic challenges in “Concrete Rose”



“Concrete Rose,” the newest release by Angie Thomas, author of “On the Come Up” and “The Hate U Give,” follows a connected set of characters in a new time period.

It is a typical Friday afternoon, and 17-year-old Maverick Carter is at the park playing basketball with his friends. Once he finishes, instead of heading home like usual, he goes to the Garden Heights free clinic, where he is about to receive news that changes his life, and jumpstarts the story in “Concrete Rose.”

The novel was released on January 12th and written by Angie Thomas, bestselling author of “The Hate U Give” and “On The Come Up.” This novel takes place 16 years earlier than her two prior books and serves as the prequel to Thomas’s “The Hate U Give.” While we had only known Maverick Carter as the beloved father of the protagonist, Starr Carter, in “The Hate U Give,” “Concrete Rose” offers an in-depth look into his teenage years and the events that shaped his character.

By creating a realistic and pertinent set of challenges for her vivid cast of characters, Thomas succeeds in inspiring readers to overcome adversity in their own lives.

In the story, Maverick makes the best out of his current situation while he lives in the fictional inner-city neighborhood of Garden Heights. His life is far from perfect, given his father’s incarceration and the methods he is forced to turn to in order to make his own money.

Maverick’s friends and family offer support, and he manages to still feel in control until a DNA test reveals that he is the father to a baby. After the struggles of being a teen dad and the heartbreaking loss of a loved one, Maverick finally realizes that his involvement with the gang the King Lords is holding him back, and while it is one of the most important parts of his life, it is something that he needs to let go of for him to overcome his problems.

Thomas successfully weaves heavier topics into her writing, such as substance abuse, incarceration, depression and gun violence. She is bold with tackling such stigmatized subjects, and it pays off because by including these topics, she is helping to reduce the stigma around them and show that there are ways to get help.

Thomas’ ability to create dynamic characters aids the discussion of these serious topics. Each character’s unique personality combined with Thomas’ skill to create a distinct voice through dialogue was mesmerizing to read. She put so much life and charm into each character, allowing readers to feel right alongside them and cheer them through their victories in life.

One of the most well-developed characters was Maverick’s mother, Faye. Each scene that featured her nurturing personality, where she provides so much love for her son without babying him, was touching to read. It was powerful to read how deeply she cared about her son and only was hard on him because she knew that he had so much potential. Thomas develops her to be the mother figure that many people look up to and get inspired by.

While this book is set nearly three decades in the past, it brings light to issues that are still extremely pertinent today.

Throughout many scenes of this story, Maverick’s mother emphasizes how important it is for Maverick to be careful when he leaves the home. At one point, when he is about to drive, she repeatedly tells him to drive carefully because the cops will use any small excuse to pull him over. This central theme of police brutality and systemic racism reoccurs throughout “Concrete Rose.”

This book leaves the reader with the message that it is possible to overcome adversity and shine in a time of darkness. The name “Concrete Rose” symbolizes that something as beautiful as a rose can grow and flourish from somewhere or something unexpected.

Today, amidst a global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement where millions of people across the nation are protesting against police brutality and systematic racism, we can take inspiration from Maverick. We can find a way to flourish in this time of difficulty by locating the crack of light in our concrete, made out of all the struggles and injustice in our nation, and using it to rise up and shine.