Popsugar Reading Challenge category: A book about a family
Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas's first book, The Hate U Give, introduced Starr and her family: her father Maverick ("Big Mav"), mother Lisa, half-brother Seven, and Seven's mother Iesha and stepfather King. Concrete Rose is the prequel, narrated by a teenage Mav in 1998.
Mav's father is in prison, his mother is struggling, and Mav has reluctantly associated with his father's gang, the King Lords, for protection. He's selling drugs with his best friend King, but becoming a full-time parent to Seven forces him to think about who he wants to be, and what kind of life he wants to give his son. The murder of a beloved family member brings the chance for vengeance - or breaking the cycle of violence.
I found myself thinking that Mav could solve his money problems by hiring himself out to a fertility clinic for research, because he is ridiculously fertile. He has sex with Iesha once, the condom breaks, and she's pregnant with Seven. After he reconciles with his girlfriend Lisa, they have unprotected sex once, and she's pregnant with Starr. By the time Iesha gets pregnant again (by King this time), even Mav is wondering, "What is in the water around here?"
The title is of course a reference to Tupac's song "The Rose That Grew From Concrete," ie, something beautiful thriving despite the odds. There are a lot of grace notes in the story that resonate with The Hate U Give: Mav working at the store he'll eventually own, naming his children, and navigating a complicated relationship with King. There's also a beautiful moment when his father, Adonis (Don), tells him he's no longer "Lil Don" - he's now "Big Mav."