If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.
Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.
Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.
Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.
When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.
- Title: Concrete Rose
- Author: Angie Thomas
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Genre: YA, Contemporary
- Targeted Age Range: Young Adult
- Representation: All Black cast, bisexual side character
- Trigger Warnings: Death and murder (shooting and stabbing), gangs, incarceration, drug dealing, teenage pregnancy, mentions of sex, mentions of racism (chapter 8), shooting (chapter 9), blood (chapters 9 and 14), on page death (chapter 9), grief, underage drinking (chapter 10), parental abandonment, underage recreational drug use (weed), physical violence (chapter 18), gun violence
- Rating: ★★★★★
When I read Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give for the first time in 2017, I found myself completely fascinated by the Carter family and their story. Since then, I have wanted to know more about their lives and stories. When the news came out that Thomas was writing a prequel to THUG that would focus on teenage Maverick, I instantly added it to my TBR and was counting down the days until its release. It was a highly anticipated read for me, and I am glad to say that it met all of my expectations and then some.
My favorite thing about Thomas’ writing is that from the very first page her main characters have a clear and distinct voice. You know exactly who they are from the first sentence on the first page. Thomas’ characters are always real, flawed, complex, and so full of life that they practically leap off the page as you read their story. I felt that way about Starr in THUG, Bri in On the Come Up, and the same is true for Maverick in Concrete Rose. While I knew who Maverick Carter was from THUG, had I read this book with no prior knowledge of him, I still would’ve gotten a clear picture of who he was through Thomas’ descriptive writing.
Something that each of Thomas’ books have in common is that they explore serious topics in a real and honest way. In Concrete Rose one of the things that is discussed is what it truly means to be a man. More specifically, what it means to be a Black man. After the death of a loved one (I won’t say who as to avoid spoilers), Maverick struggles to come to terms with what has happened, in addition to struggling with how to express his grief. During a conversation with his neighbor and employer, Mr. Wyatt, Maverick explains how he needs to stay strong for his family, meaning that he can’t break down. Mr. Wyatt then says to him,
“Son, one of the biggest lies ever told is that Black men don’t feel emotions. Guess it’s easier to not see us as human when you think we’re heartless. Fact of the matter is, we feel things. Hurt, pain, sadness, all of it. We got a right to show them feelings as much as anybody else”
I found this moment to be incredibly powerful. The line that struck me the most is, “Guess it’s easier to not see us as human when you think we’re heartless” that line took my breath away when I read it. My heart broke for Maverick and every other Black boy/man out there who has come to believe that he is not allowed to feel his emotions fully. There are many moments after this where Maverick lets himself feel the full scope of his emotions, and as a reader it was wonderful to see Maverick’s character growth as a result of this conversation with Mr. Wyatt.
While there are many characters who have an important impact on Maverick and help shape him into the adult that he becomes, I personally think that the most important influence was Mr. Wyatt. It’s clear that Mr. Wyatt had a strong impact on Maverick, as there are many things he was taught that he implements into his adult life. Mr. Wyatt teaches him the importance of hard work, encourages him to set goals for himself, and really shows Maverick the responsibilities of being an adult.
One of the things I was initially very curious about was why Thomas decided on the title of Concrete Rose and if we would learn why it is that Maverick is so dedicated to his garden as an adult. A favorite part of the book for me is when Mr. Wyatt explains to Maverick why they’re planting roses before winter comes. Mr. Wyatt tells him,
“Roses, they’re fascinating li’l things. Can handle more than folks think. I’ve had roses in full bloom during an ice storm. They could easily survive without any help. We want them to thrive”
which I feel is a reflection of why Mr. Wyatt helps Maverick. He knows that Maverick can thrive and do incredible things, and he wants to help him get there. Maverick then takes this ideology and implements it in not only his life, but his children’s lives as well.
In THUG, we learn that Maverick gave all of his kids their names for very specific reasons. He gave them names that represented what they were for him and who he wanted them to be, and one of my favorite parts of Concrete Rose was learning how he came upon the name Seven. During a conversation with his cousin, Dre, they begin discussing Tupac and a theory that he was actually still alive. Maverick goes on to explain how the number seven is an occurring theme in Tupac’s life and when Dre asks him why Tupac would focus on it, Maverick reples with, “Apparently, it’s a holy number, I don’t know. I’ll have to look more into that”
Maverick looks into it later, and as we know, decides to give his son the name Seven because it’s the number of perfection, and to him, Seven is perfect and I think that’s beautiful. While I knew this from THUG, I loved hearing how he came to decide on that name, and how it had a link back to Tupac, whose music also has a large part in the storyline of THUG since the name of the book itself comes from a quote of his. It was also very entertaining reading about everyone’s immediate reactions to the name Seven and how Maverick had to explain it each time. It was a nice bit of comedy among all the serious topics. I also loved how he and Lisa decided on the name Starr, but I don’t want to spoil that one because it really touched my heart.
Speaking of Maverick and Lisa, I simply adore them. I really loved reading about their relationship and how they became the couple that we see in THUG. It’s clear that their relationship stems from a place of true caring and understanding. They go through their ups and downs, and even when they’re not together, they will always help the other when needed. There is a scene where they’re both taking care of Seven that I simply loved and brought so much joy, I truthfully could’ve read an entire book about that alone.
Honestly I could continue to go on about my love for this book and Thomas’ writing, but if I did that, then I’d probably spoil the entire thing. So, I will end this review with this: once I started reading Concrete Rose I couldn’t stop. From the get-go, I was immediately immersed in Maverick’s world and didn’t want to stop until I had gotten to the very last page. In my opinion, Angie Thomas is one of the best writers of this generation and I will continue to read every single piece of literature that she puts out. If you haven’t read Concrete Rose yet, I highly recommend that you do. You won’t regret it.
*Please note that as I am not Black, this post will be edited with ownvoice reviews as I find them.
Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and will be published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.