Concrete Rose

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
Concrete Rose Book Poster Image
Suspenseful novel about teen father shows empathy, humor.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Several distinct educational topics grace this story. Foremost, there's a detail depiction of what it's really like to take care of an infant, and how that impacts the ability to work and go to school. Gang life is shown honestly, without sensationalism. These teens join the gangs out of a longing for community, not because they're "bad," and sometimes they pay with their lives. Several good consent conversations occur, and teens experience severe consequences from unprotected sex. Figures in African American history show up organically, for example in the main character's discussion of his homework or of posters on the wall at school. Families go through divorce and parental incarceration. There's a subplot about PTSD.

Positive Messages

Make the best choices you can, for yourself as well as your loved ones. Family and friendship matter. Men and women have different challenges, but we're all human.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The spectrum of role models is large and nuanced. There's a father who clearly cares for his family but is imprisoned for life because of his gang involvement. A teen boy does a great job stepping up to care for an infant, but he is irresponsible about having unprotected sex. There's a notable sense of equality between the sexes: For example, both boys and girls have casual sex, and there are many unplanned pregnancies. Both sexes are shown enjoying their sexuality, and both sexes are shown bearing responsibility for their poor judgement.

Violence

A teen boy dies after being shot in the head. Another teen is shot to death in a fight at school. A man is imprisoned for life for murder. Teens have fistfights.

Sex

Teens have intercourse. There are multiple discussions of masturbation and birth control. There are multiple teen pregnancies, and a teen couple openly discuss getting an abortion. The positive messages in scenes that include consent discussion are balanced with examples of poor decision making, such as the choice to have unprotected sex.

Language

"Damn," "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "nigga," and the "N" word.

Consumerism

A few mentions of consumer products, including Pepsi, Air Jordan sneakers, the musical group TLC, and the Sony Discman contribute to the realism of the story and help set the action in the early 1990s. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character and numerous secondary characters are members of drug-dealing gangs. They sell marijuana, pills, cocaine, and heroin. A scene takes place in a crack house. In another scene, a boy goes to work stoned and his boss perceives his state. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas (prequel to the highly acclaimed The Hate U Give, which won a Coretta Scott King Author Award and was adapted for a 2018 movie) is about what happens when 17-year-old Maverick suddenly has to care for a 3-month-old infant boy who's the product of a one-night stand. He's also dealing with a friend killed by a member of a rival gang, a father who's in prison, and troubles in school consequent to his personal problems. A teen boy dies after being shot in the head. Another teen is shot to death in a fight at school. A man serves a life sentence for murder. There are fistfights between teens. Prison guards are described beating inmates, and police are described beating suspects. Teens have intercourse. There are multiple discussions of masturbation and birth control. There are multiple teen pregnancies, and a teen couple openly discuss getting an abortion. The positive messages in scenes that include consent discussion are balanced with examples of poor decision making, such as the choice to have unprotected sex. The main character and numerous secondary characters are members of drug-dealing gangs. They sell marijuana, pills, cocaine, and heroin. A scene takes place in a crack house. In one scene, a boy goes to work stoned and his boss perceives his state. Strong language includes "damn," "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "nigga," and the "N" word.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymaggda January 29, 2021
Teen, 13 years old Written byhelloworld12234 January 27, 2021

concrete rose

it's great for kids who know the right thing to do. there's a lot of talk of sex in the book. the main subject is maverick selling drugs, but honestly... Continue reading

What's the story?

When CONCRETE ROSE begins, 17-year-old Maverick is thrust into adulthood at the community clinic, when he gets DNA test results showing he fathered the 3-month-old baby of a young woman he had sex with once. The mother abandons the baby while he's changing the boy's diaper in the bathroom. Supported by his mom, an incarcerated but involved dad, his friends, and a local merchant who gives him a job, Maverick gives up dealing drugs and enthusiastically takes on the responsibilities of parenthood. Maverick's life becomes more complicated when his friend is killed by members of a rival gang and he gets yet another young woman pregnant.

Is it any good?

Clever, fun, and real, Maverick's story is a page-turner -- a cautionary tale about teen parenthood from the unusual perspective of a teen father. Concrete Rose is packed with thought-provoking material that never feels forced. It touches on sexual consent, Black male mental health, grief, parental incarceration, gang violence, and more. The author's command of dialect is impressive. After getting used to it in the first few pages, the voice seems strong and natural, as if the reader is truly in the main character's mind. The characters are all human and relatable. They have major flaws and make really dumb mistakes that bring serious consequences. They are also vulnerable, loyal, and -- in most cases -- motivated by positive intentions. Male and female characters, both adults and kids, are treated with equal respect.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difference between knowing what's right and doing what's right in Concrete Rose. How tough is it for the characters to make smart decisions? 

  • What makes a good friend? A good boyfriend? A good parent?

  • The main character narrates his story in dialect. Did you enjoy this or not? How did the dialect influence how you understood the character's world?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories and teen romance

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