On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Publisher/Year: HarperAudio, 2019
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Length: 11 hours, 43 minutes
What it is: A young adult novel about a 16-year-old girl named Bri who wants to become the next great rapper. Her father was a rapper who died before his time, but she doesn’t want to be a mini version of him, the way everyone thinks she’ll be; Bri is her own person with her own style. She’s feeling the pressure to succeed: her mother has lost her job and her neighborhood is ruled by gangs. If she can make it big, she can help her family.
Why I read it: Angie Thomas is a great writer.
What I thought: I read Thomas’s debut, The Hate U Give, and while I wasn’t as blown away by it as so many others were, I could appreciate the book; it just felt like Thomas was throwing too much in at once. I didn’t feel like that about On the Come Up; in fact, I liked it more than The Hate U Give. Here, all of the plot points — even the over-the-top ones — felt appropriate; Bri is trying to make it big as a rapper, after all. Thomas beautifully balances bigger social and political issues with the important, personal questions that teens face as they come of age.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Publisher/Year: Hachette Audio, 2017
Narrator: Robert Petkoff
Length: 8 hours, 17 minutes
What it is: A novel about a failed, middle-aged novelist, Arthur Less, who has just been invited to his ex-boyfriend’s wedding. Still reeling from the end of that nine-year relationship, Less packs his summer with a far-fetched itinerary of conferences and writer’s retreats that takes him around the world.
Why I read it: I’m reading my way through the Pulitzers, and this one won in 2018.
What I thought: I had picked this book up in both print and audio several times before, but I never could get past the first few pages. I’m not sure what was different this time around, but I managed to power through. It’s not at all a bad book, but mostly I just felt…meh. I appreciated the humorous jabs at writing and academia, but I also rolled my eyes a lot. Several people I know really connected with it; I’m just not one of them.