On the Come Up

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
On the Come Up Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Teen challenges stereotypes with hip-hop in heartfelt tale.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 17 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Teens will learn about the racism and double standards that young black people face in America. There are also plenty of lessons for teens about news and media literacy.

Positive Messages

Courage, communication, perseverance, and self-control are important themes. Fight for your dreams. Take ownership of your actions and decisions. Think before you post online.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bri is talented, passionate, and determined to succeed. She can sometimes be hard-headed and stubborn, but she speaks her mind and uses music to express herself. Bri's mom and brother encourage her to focus on school and getting into college. Sonny and Malik are loyal friends.


Bri's dad was murdered by a rival gang member when she was a kid. A character is slammed to the ground by high school security guards. Two characters are held at gunpoint. Gang rivalries and retaliations are mentioned. A boy is punched by an adult. Some think that the violent lyrics of Bri's song are "anti-police" and could have inspired kids at her high school to start a riot.


Couples make out. A father wants his son to pretend he's straight.


Strong language includes variations of "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "bitch," "damn," "bastard," and the "N" word.


Bri's family struggles financially, especially after her mom loses her job. She focuses on scoring a record deal to support her family. A pair of Timberlands is a status symbol. Characters discuss food stamps and go to food banks. Pop culture mentions include Black Panther, Forrest Gump, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and more. Several hip-hop artists are mentioned such as Biggie, Tupac, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is a former drug addict and another is a drug dealer. Mentions of weed, cocaine, cigarettes, and Hennesy. Characters are arrested during a drug bust.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give) is a heartfelt and surprisingly humorous coming-of-age novel about 16-year-old aspiring rapper Brianna, whose first song goes viral for the wrong reasons. It's set in the same fictional Garden Heights neighborhood of The Hate U Give, but Bri is totally different from that story's Starr. Although there are tough topics such as racism, gang violence, abandonment, and poverty, there are plenty of positive messages for teens about communication, courage, perseverance, and self-control. A character is slammed to the ground by high school security guards. Teens are held at gunpoint by a gang member. One character is a former drug addict and another is a drug dealer. There are mentions of weed, cocaine, cigarettes, and Hennessey. Strong language includes several uses and variations of "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "bitch," "damn," "bastard," and the "N" word.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byElong1927 December 5, 2020

Eye opening

This is a sobering book about what it is like to be a black teen today. This is a good way to educate all races to be sensitive and respectful of others.
Adult Written byCece Wu March 16, 2019

This Book is Amazing!

I loved The Hate U Give but I loved On The Come Up even more! The characters are bold and realistic and the plot is great! There is some mature content so if yo... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySam_M_princess June 25, 2019

A good read with a positive message

This is a great book about poverty and poor income areas. While this book does have some mentions of drugs and brutality this book is mainly about a girl who re... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written by1Lily1 January 8, 2021

Perfect for teens and up, very inspiring!

This book revolves around a 16 year old girl who is passionate about rapping and faces some of the hardest struggles in her life. This book would inspire a lot... Continue reading

What's the story?

Following in her father's hip-hop footsteps, 16-year-old Bri Jackson knows she wants to be one of the great rappers of all time and that music could be the answer to her family's money problems. But she didn't know she'd be ON THE COME UP when her first song goes viral for the wrong reasons. Bri quickly learns that fame comes with its own price when the media misinterprets her message and starts to spin everything out of control. Can she find a way to pursue her dream and support her family without ruining her reputation?

Is it any good?

Angie Thomas' heartfelt and surprisingly humorous coming-of-age novel highlights the importance of family, friendship, and fighting for your dreams, making it a must-read for teens. Hip-hop fans will recognize the legendary artists mentioned throughout the book and will appreciate how Bri uses her passion and knowledge of the genre to challenge stereotypes with her poetic lyrics. Bri isn't afraid to speak her mind, and it's frustrating how many misinterpret her message or only see her as a "hoodlum," but it reflects the double standards she faces as a young black woman in America. However, teens will ultimately be inspired by Bri’s determination to tell her story on her own terms and understand that On the Come Up is a tale of courage, perseverance, and empowerment.

Talk to your kids about ...

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories that deal with racism and coming-of-age tales

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate