If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.
Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.
Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.
Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.
When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.
Warnings: gun violence, drug abuse, incarceration
Don’t let the cuteness fool you. Babies straight-up thugs. They don’t give a damn what you going through.
Going into a prequel novel knowing the fates of characters is an interesting experience, because the ‘mystery’ of the plot is no longer where the characters end up, which is why it is up to the author to keep the plot engaging even without that element of surprise removed. Thomas does an excellent job with Concrete Rose, because you know about Mav and what his relationships with various characters are and what happens to him finally, but the book still gives you so much to delve into. I must mention, though, that I had read The Hate U Give a couple of years ago (which is a Long Time in my memory) so the details of secondary characters in it, especially the parentals and stuff were vague in my mind; I did not even remember the age difference between Seven and Starr.
I screwed up. Ma used to tell me, “Don’t grow up too fast. You’ll miss being a kid.” I thought she was bugging, but I get it now. ’Cause suddenly, I got kids, and I wish more than anything that I could be a kid. Then wouldn’t nobody depend on me.
Anyway, back to this book – it is about when Mav was 17, and about to be announced as a dad. He is a part of the King Lords, but in a reduced sense; he isn’t really interested in being a part of a gang, but it would be safer for him to be so, and besides, dealing pays better than other jobs. His cousin, Dre, especially would like him to keep his involvement to the minimum, as he feels Mav has potential to get out and go for bigger things. For Mav, though, multiple challenges are about to be thrown his way – he finds out he accidentally impregnated (condom break) King’s on-off hook-up, Iesha (who wants to be King’s girlfriend BTW), which means the 3-month old son that King thought was his is actually Mav’s. Iesha basically dumps the kid on him, and disappears, and Mav has to grow up fast to learn how to be a dad. His relationship with his own girlfriend, Lisa, is strained, and then broken. Then Dre is murdered, and Mav feels it is his responsibility to get revenge for him, since they can’t expect the police to do their jobs. And then on the heels of that, he finds out that Lisa is pregnant too, and she’s keeping it. So now, Mav has two kids to care for, his school to finish, Dre’s revenge to take, and he doesn’t know what he wants for the future – which is a lot on the plate for anybody, let alone a 17 year old who feels powerless to change stuff in his life.
“Son, one of the biggest lies ever told is that Black men don’t feel emotions. Guess it’s easier to not see us as human when you think we’re heartless. Fact of the matter is, we feel things. Hurt, pain, sadness, all of it. We got a right to show them feelings as much as anybody else.”
Mav’s journey is the book has many aspects – there’s him being a single teen dad, there’s about him coming to terms with what masculinity means for him, what being the son of a gang leader means and how much stock he has to give to it, and finally what he wants the rest of his life to look like. I must add – this is my first book with a teen father as the main character, and while he has his mother as a support system to guide him through the process, she works two jobs, which makes childcare even more complicated. There are points where he feels at a loss, having lost his freedom and childhood, and having to be responsible for another living being. He is conflicted between continuing dealing drugs with King as it pays better, or to work in Mr Wyatt’s shop, where it is peaceful but the pay isn’t as good. With tensions in the Lords itself after Dre’s death, and a rift between the younger and older members, it is more dangerous to stay in. Mr Wyatt, meanwhile, directs him towards other pursuits, with his own brand of tough love, having him tend to his garden, and encourage him to think seriously about the future. He also makes him question what he has been told about ‘how to be a man’, and the subtle exploration of toxic masculinity in the book is a thing to behold.
“Anyway, I’m Li’l Don. Everybody expected me to join.” “Because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?” Mr. Wyatt asks. “However, they can roll away from the tree. They simply need a little push.”
This book is not all serious, though, I promise you. It has its lighter moments, too, sprinkled throughout Mav’s story, to complete a realistic rendition of his life. My favorite funny moments were everyone’s reactions to his second child – though for Mav is still a shameful thing because he feels he has let down his mother, I found his grandma’s reaction particularly hilarious.
“Whew, chile! You fertile!” Granny says to me. “You look at a girl, and she get pregnant. Lord hammercy.” My cheeks burning. I’d be a’ight with the floor eating me alive. “It wasn’t like that, Granny.”
There were also the scenes between Mav and Dre that were warm and heartfelt, as well as him meeting Keisha and her kid. Mav and his mom make a great team too – I loved how their relationship is portrayed, how you can see both sides of their story, and not just have it be a teen-against-strict-parent kind of trope. Honestly, there’s a lot to appreciate about this book, particularly the care Thomas has put in each of Mav’s character relationships.
Finally, whether or not you have read The Hate U Give, I urge you to give this book a try – it is beautifully executed concept, with a relatable cast of characters and a story that engages you well.
Is it diverse? Black main character, and mainly Black cast; bisexual major character; Black woman author
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Balzer + Bray, via Edelweiss.
Other books by the author
Released on January 12, 2021