On the Come Up Summary & Study Guide

Angie Thomas
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On the Come Up Summary & Study Guide Description

On the Come Up Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on On the Come Up by Angie Thomas.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Thomas, Angie. On the Come Up. HarperCollins Publishers, 2019.

In On the Come Up,16-year-old Brianna Jackson anxiously waits for an invitation to battle in the local rapping Ring. Desperate for the opportunity to showcase her talent, Bri is distracted from her schoolwork. That evening, the Ring host, DJ Hype calls with the hoped-for invite. Her mother, Jay's sister and one of Bri's closest friends, Aunt Pooh arrives at the house to escort Bri to the Ring. A constant supporter of Bri's work, Pooh believes the battle could jumpstart her career.

During the battle, however, Bri's opponent, Milez, the son of her late father's former manager, Supreme, makes fun of her father's murder. Hurt by his lyrics, Bri struggles with a response. Halfway through the battle, however, Bri realizes Milez's lyrics are prewritten. Her final rap makes her the evening's winner and earns her the attention of the community at large.

The next day on the bus to Midtown School of the Arts everyone congratulates Bri for her performance in the Ring. When they reach the school, Bri and friends move through security. The guards Long and Tate suddenly target Bri, demanding she show them her backpack. Frustrated they are treating her unfairly, Bri protests and the guards tackle her to the ground. When they find contraband candy in her bag, they send her to the principal's office and she is suspended. Though Jay defends her, Bri remains frustrated. That afternoon she learns her mother has also lost her job. Feeling overwhelmed she leaves home to visit her aunt in the park. Aunt Pooh agrees Bri has been treated unjustly; to cheer her up she tells her about the offer she received from a small local studio to record a new song for Bri.

The next day, Pooh drives Bri to the studio. Not long after arriving, Pooh gets a call and, much to Bri's frustration, leaves the studio. Despite her aunt's absence and lack of support, Bri manages to write and record a new song, On the Come Up, she is proud of. The next day on the bus she shows it to one of her best friends Sonny, who congratulates her on the new lyrics. Over lunch, she shows it to her other best friend, Malik. Bri is devastated and hurt when Malik fails to respond with enthusiasm. While the lyrics are largely a response to the guards' racial profiling, they also include a series of controversial lines involving violence and guns. Malik warns her that her words might be misinterpreted, that she does not want to confirm people's suspicions that she is a violent teenager.

Not long later, when Bri shows the song to Pooh, she is met with a similar response. Disgusted with the lack of support Bri decides to take Supreme up on his offer to post the piece online. In the coming weeks, the song goes viral. While many young listeners love Bri's work and constantly quote the lyrics, others believe Bri's words are a call to violence against police authority. Members of the Crown gang also think some of the lines are a threat against them. The Crowns even get into a confrontation with Bri and Pooh outside the Ring, and Bri is forbidden to battle. After Pooh storms off, Supreme offers Bri a ride, assuring her the uproar is unimportant.

When Bri returns to school, she is furious to see Long and Tate's suspension is over. In an attempt to support Bri and protest the guards' reinstatement at school, her friend Curtis starts chanting her lyrics. Many students join in. When the guards tell the students to disband, someone attacks the men and a riot breaks out. Later that night, during televised reports of the incident, the report accuses Bri of writing a song that incited students to violence. When the station plays Bri's lyrics, Jay is shocked, warning Bri about the dangerous nature of her words. She forbids her ever to rap again.

So frustrated, Bri takes Supreme up on another offer to meet. When she arrives at the restaurant, Supreme presents her with a brand-new pair of Timberlands as a congratulations for her song's increasing success. Another young rapper and employer of Supreme's, Dee-Nice, arrives. He tells Bri that Supreme has helped him win the fame and million-dollar deal he has today. Bri says she will have to talk to Pooh before officially hiring Supreme.

Later, Jay tells her she listened to her song and understands, still warning her to lie low until the uproar is over. One afternoon while Bri is hanging out with her brother Trey, Malik and Sonny show up, asking her to come over. On their walk to Malik's house, the friends make amends, and Bri realizes how important they are to her. While at Malik's they decide to make a music video to go along with Bri's song. Later, while Malik is walking Bri home, a Crown member pulls up in his car, punches Malik and steals Bri's father's pendant at gunpoint.

Bri calls Pooh to pick them up. Furious with what happened, Pooh insists she is going to get revenge. For weeks after the robbery, Pooh disappears. Bri worries the worst, fearing her aunt will be killed or arrested.

In the meantime, Jay, Bri, and her friends attend a PTA meeting in which members of the community demand a change in school security policies, as they feel their children have been treated unjustly by the guards. Other parents insist that students like Bri have threatened the safety of the majority. Jay speaks out, even approaching the superintendent afterwards about how often Bri has been targeted without cause.

Not long after, Pooh finally texts Bri asking her to meet up in a park not far from Curtis's house. Their reunion is interrupted when a SWAT team suddenly sweeps in. Bri and Curtis flee to his house, where they watch the cops arrest Pooh for drug possession. When Bri later tells Jay what happened, Jay is overcome by despair and closes herself in her room.

In the days following Pooh's arrest, Bri becomes increasingly involved with Supreme. When he secures her a radio interview with DJ Hype, Bri accepts. However, the opportunity turns sour when Hype accuses Bri of having a ghostwriter. He does not think a young girl could write and sing about the topics Bri sings about without help. Bri lashes out and storms out of the studio. She suddenly feels desperately alone, hating the person she is becoming. Afterwards she visits Trey at work. He tells her she needs to be more careful about her public image. When Bri breaks down, finally admitting how powerless she feels, Trey comforts her. Bri realizes she has always needed him.

A few days later, Supreme calls Bri to tell her she has an opportunity to record a song with Vine Records. When Bri arrives at the studio with Supreme, however, she is shocked to learn Dee-Nice has written her new song for her. Supreme assures her it is the only way to make money. She reluctantly agrees.

In the coming days, Bri finally coaxes Jay out of her room. Together they visit Pooh in jail. Jay is disgusted to hear that all Pooh can talk about are her plans to commit more crimes after her release. She refuses to bail Pooh out, and she and Bri leave. In the car, Jay and Bri make amends, and Jay encourages Bri to think about who she wants to be so she does not end up in a similar position as Pooh.

That weekend, the Jackson family returns to church together. Bri's grandparents have made peace with Jay and invite the family over for dinner after service. Before they sit down to eat, Jay tells Trey and Bri they will all move back in with their grandparents so they can save money. Trey also convinces Jay to let Bri continue pursuing her rapping dreams. At the table, Bri realizes how much she loves and needs her family, that each of them defines who she is.

During Bri's next battle in the Ring, she is supposed to sing Supreme and Dee-Nice's new song. However, despite the conflict it will create, at the last minute Bri decides to sing a new original. Supreme and the Vine Records CEO storm out. The crowd cheers.

In the weeks to come, Bri and her family settle into her grandparents' home. Curtis and Bri study together and Jay prepares for the first day of her new job as the superintendent's secretary. Suddenly Curtis tells Bri to look at her Twitter, as a famous rapper has invited her to perform a song together.

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