Cover Concrete Rose: Red background, a teenage boy standing amid falling rose petals

About the Book

Title: Concrete Rose (The Hate U Give #0)
Published: 2021

Cover Story: Simple Statement
BFF Charm: Platinum Edition
Talky Talk: Authentically Angie
Bonus Factor: Old Friends
Anti-Bonus Factors: Grief
Relationship Status: Deep And Abiding Love

Cover Story: Simple Statement

It’s a simple cover until you really look at Mav’s expression. He’s packing a lot into that one look. The red and roses can symbolize the violence he lives with, the gardening he learns from Mr. Wyatt, and his own struggle to bloom in a harsh environment. The simpleness and cartoon style of the cover also fits nicely with its predecessors.

The Deal:

Maverick Carter hasn’t thought much about what comes after high school or even a life beyond Garden Heights. He’s in with the King Lords partially because it’s expected of him—his father, Big Don, used to run the gang until he went away for life—and partially for the protection it provides while on the streets, but slinging long-term is about the only thing he knows he doesn’t want. When he learns he fathered a child with his best friend’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, he has to quickly adjust to parenting a kid when he still feels like a kid himself.

Trying to be on the straight and narrow isn’t easy when bagging groceries at a local shop barely covers the cost of diapers and the light bill. And everyone knows there’s really no leaving the King Lords…except via a jail cell or a pine box.

BFF Charm: Platinum Edition 

BFF platinum charm

I loved grumpy, wise, and fiercely awesome adult Mav in his Nike flip-flops and socks, and it makes me giggle to think how teen Mav would probably be horrified if he knew where his shoe game ended up. But it’s also a testament to how Mav is the kind of person who eventually lets go of the things that don’t really matter and does what needs to be done to make sure the people he loves get the best they deserve. He’s a fantastic father figure. He can hold a grudge and makes mistakes, like anyone, but at his core, Mav has a huge heart and a desire to help, even when the odds are against him.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

We’re in the thick of some pretty big relationship drama for Mav and Lisa as he has to admit he slept with Iesha when they were broken up and made himself a father. As adults, we know they still had their disagreements and didn’t always see eye-to-eye, so it was neat to see where it all started and the things about one another that kept them coming back together.

Talky Talk: Authentically Angie

At this point, I feel like Angie Thomas needs her own Talky Talk tag like Sarah Dessen. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure I needed this prequel (or most prequels in general) but I do need more Angie Thomas in my life, so as soon as I could scoop this up, you better believe I did. The first thing I noticed is how Thomas shapes her language around her characters’ internal voice, giving the book such life. Concrete Rose is told in the first person from Mav’s POV, and his voice is reflected in so many little ways, but most notably, for me, how he drops the “s” on all his verbs:

He stop sucking his bottle long enough to stretch his mouth and yawn. He clearly don’t care.
He halfway done eating. Guess I gotta burp him now. Ma said hold him against my shoulder and gently pat his back. I pat once, twice, three times—
He hiccup. Something warm ooze down my back.
Ill, man!” I hop off the couch. This boy puked on me. He cry, and shoot, I wanna cry. “Ma!”

I went back and reread all the parts of The Hate U Give featuring Mav to refresh myself and see if things stayed consistent between books because I’m like that, and the way Thomas wrote Starr’s narration was very different compared to Mav’s. It’s her attention to detail that keeps you immersed in the world and adds authenticity to her characters.

While this book may feel smaller in scope compared to Starr’s journey for justice or Bri’s brush with fame, Mav’s story feels just as high stakes. So many lives are on the line, and Mav doesn’t have many success stories he can look to for guidance. In a way, I was happy this WAS a prequel because I already knew Mav’s fate, so it made the tense moments a little less tense knowing one day he was going to have this amazing family he and Lisa created for themselves. (Side note: do I have to classify this as a HISTORICAL novel at this point?? Because it’s taking place around 2000 and holy crap, that was two decades ago!)

Bonus Factor: Old Friends

A man grilling on a barbeque outside, from The Hate U Give

Because Mav grows up in the same Garden Heights that Starr lived in, it’s fun—and sometimes a bit sad *sob* Khalil!—to see familiar side characters pop up in different ways. Say “oh, hey!” to people like Reuben or Mr. Lewis the barber, or learn more about the influential people in Mav’s life like Mr. Wyatt, the former grocery store owner, who we never met in the flesh during THUG but who’s presence was felt. Even seeing the progression from King the friend to King the foe filled in some parts of the story I didn’t know I needed. Angie Thomas has a way of making every character she writes just leap off the damn page as if they were a fully formed, three-dimensional person.

And as this is a safe space, I am a bit embarrassed to admit how long it took me to connect together the fact that awesomely supportive Uncle Carlos from THUG was Lisa’s overprotectively annoying older brother who Mav can’t stand (and the feeling is very mutual). D’oh!

Anti-Bonus Factor: Grief

Starr crying seeing her best friend shot in the movie version of The Hate U Give

If you have a good memory (or went back to reread parts of the first book like I did), you know the fate of Mav’s cousin, Andre. It devastates Mav in spite of how he thinks of the violence as just a normal way of life in his neighborhood, and that grief is a persistent companion that completely reshapes the way Mav makes decisions about his future.

Relationship Status: Deep And Abiding Affection

There is so much for us to discuss, Book, that you don’t even want to get me started. I’ve seen you now through multiple walks of life and you’ve impressed me time and again. I can’t wait to meet up in the future and see how we get on when our hair is all grey and we’re hard of hearing. Stay gold.

Literary Matchmaking

When You Look Like Us

I can’t help but feel like Jay from Pamela N. Harris’ When You Look Like Us and Mav could be good friends to each other, as they both care so much about taking care of their family.

The Boy in the Black Suit

Jason Reynold’s The Boy in the Black Suit is another story featuring a close-knit neighborhood and a character struggling with grief.

Concrete Rose (The Hate U Give #0)

We apparently haven’t reviewed many books regarding teen pregnancy, and as questionable as this cover is, it’s always good to get different perspectives especially on tough topics, so you may enjoy Catherine Greenman’s Hooked.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Balzar + Bray. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Concrete Rose is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.