Brianna is a teen rapper facing her first time in The Ring, a local rap-off. By day she's a student at an arts high school, where her BFFs Sonny and Malik are achievers, and Bri's biggest accomplishment is getting called to the principal's office a lot. Even if that's not entirely fair.
"I'm not the only one who does that stuff."
"No, but girls like you are the only ones getting hits on their permanent record."
As she did with The Hate U Give, Thomas has written a bold, complex heroine with a strong network of family and friends, none of whom is perfect. Except maybe Sonny, who observes of Bri's love interest,
"Damn, Bri. He talked to you like a human being, now all of a sudden you're thirsty for him? What kind of heterosexual bullshit is that?"
The politics in THUG are ripped from the headlines, where OtCU is about one girl's quieter Black life. There is violence, but Bri is spared witnessing a police murdering her friend. Oh, except, now that I think of it, she experiences racialized violence herself. She's also looking for her life to get louder. She wants to be a rap star, to get her family out of poverty, to follow and also differentiate herself from her father, who was a rapper, too, and who died violently.
Note to self--look up Bri's favorite rap artists
- Remy Ma
- Kendrick Lamar
- J. Cole
- Joyner Lucas
- Jean Grae
- Lauryn Hill
At one point Bri has to give Malik a reality check--about her reality. About how her family had no electricity for a while, sometimes barely has food, and her shoes are falling apart. She forgives him for not understanding.
"It's okay that you don't. I'm glad you don't. But I need you to try."
Bri being glad that her friend doesn't understand poverty is tremendous, but also lonely.