... one of my favorite things about Angie Thomas is that she’s always willing to dig a little deeper, to peel back another layer. This is what makes her latest novel, Concrete Rose — her best, in my opinion — a gift. It not only eviscerates the 'fast Black girl' stereotype and debunks the myth of the Bailing Black Baby Daddy, it gives us insight into the life of a boy most people wouldn’t even attempt to look at beyond the surface ... Thomas doesn’t sugarcoat any of this: She lets us see the grit and grime of all of it ... what Thomas does not do is permit the reader to perch up on a pedestal of unexamined moral ideals and look down on the characters in this book — and the people they represent in the real world — from some completely unfounded position of superiority ... One of Angie Thomas’s greatest skills is crafting characters that give even adults readers insight into their younger selves. She makes us remember what it’s like to feel as though you can’t speak up without dire consequences; what it’s like to have dreams so much bigger than you are; what it’s like to be stuck between a rock and a hard place with no idea what to do, but also no choice but to figure it out ... No, gang membership, drug slinging and teen parenthood aren’t light or easy topic topics. But in Concrete Rose, Thomas handles them with utmost care, compassion and nuance. It’s a novel that, like Thomas’s other books, plucks at the strings of our complex humanity. It walks us into the life of a character who is easy to condemn from the outside, and then dares us try to judge him once we’ve gotten in ... we all owe Angie Thomas a debt of immense gratitude. Because in allowing us to see the heart and soul of a boy who does just about everything our society vilifies, but is truly doing the best he can with what he has, she has given us the greatest gift of all: permission to let our guards down and be a little more legitimately human.
The inheritance we carry from those who came before us is a knot of roots that can be complicated to unravel. It can take a lifetime of work to distinguish the threads that shape the people we grow to be. Angie Thomas’s latest young adult novel, Concrete Rose, takes on this challenge — sorting through a person’s becoming — with the author’s characteristic mastery ... That familiar hum of collective care is woven throughout Concrete Rose and showcases the full humanity of Black folks — and Black boys in particular ... In Concrete Rose, Thomas casts a loving eye on the lives and realities of Black people, which is a powerful continuation of one of her most moving endeavors as a writer: her challenge to readers to affirm the goodness of all types of characters and to greet them with compassion at every turn, no matter where those turns may lead.
Thomas’ genius is her ability to craft one man’s history in a way that illuminates the forces that brought us to this critical juncture ... Thomas’ book holds a universal truth: Regardless of mistakes made, there is a way to break through concrete, to bloom wildly with freedom. It is possible to take all that is hard, cold, grey and transform it to a thing of unexpected beauty. But it requires all those around us to tend and cultivate.