Ears on the Odyssey

Audio Review: Concrete Rose

Coming home to Garden Heights, Angie Thomas tells the story of Maverick Carter, following his journey into manhood as he transforms from son of a local gang legend into a young father with the desire to be something different than what everyone expects.

Life in Garden Heights is far from idyllic, but seventeen-year-old Mav survives. Following in the footsteps of his father–a gang legend–Mav deals drugs for the King Lords. He also attends high school, supports his mother, relies on his cousin like a brother, and spends time with his girlfriend.

Maverick is also a father. With someone dependent on him, a promise to live a life free from dealing only makes supporting his infant son more difficult. Unfortunately, King Lord blood runs deep, and walking away is easier said than done. Mav soon finds himself back on the streets, selling the same drugs he swore he wouldn’t and seeking revenge for the murder of a loved one. With so much set against him, Maverick finds within himself an unexpected wisdom. In addition, he finds within the community a system of support he didn’t know he had, or even needed.

As a fan of The Hate U Give and On The Come Up, returning to Garden Heights wasn’t a difficult choice. Besides the setting, the only other fact of which I was aware was that Dion Graham was lending his voice to a protagonist who just so happened to be Maverick Carter. Dion Graham, in case you’re unfamiliar with him, is the lauded narrator of more than a hundred different audiobooks, having lent his voice to an incredible collection of roles and a wide range of genres. 

Stepping into the shoes of Maverick, Graham brilliantly convinces listeners that they’re listening to a living and breathing individual’s memoir rather than a work of fiction. His command of dialect was so profound that I was reminded of young men I knew as a teenager in the 1990s, many of whom were friends. At times I found myself distracted by memories of a friend or classmate, such was the authenticity of Graham’s delivery. To be reminded of them so vividly, by way of narration, deepened the immersion into the narrative on a profoundly familiar level. 

Furthemore, Graham artfully emoted Maverick’s struggle as a young man prematurely forced into manhood. Listeners will feel similarly incensed as Maverick stands up to judgment from his incarcerated father. While Mav holds another man at gunpoint, listeners will be paralyzed with conflicted anxiety. Graham performs these sections with an emotional intensity that, even knowing Maverick’s fate, you can’t help but fear his soul is in peril.

Meeting a young “Big Mav” should be reason enough to pick up Concrete Rose, but even if you’re unaware of who Maverick Carter as Starr’s father, audiences should embrace this as a powerfully relevant urban bildungsroman. Angie Thomas’ prequel to The Hate U Give explores the struggles of many young black men becoming fathers, humanizes them, and also questions what it really means to be a man. A healthy dose of levity, owing to Thomas’ well-written and often hilarious dialogue, supports the experience, palatability enhanced by the figurative cherry on top that is Dion Graham’s performance.

Allow me to express my gratitude to HarperAudio for the opportunity to listen to and review Concrete Rose. I’d also like to thank Angie Thomas and Dion Graham, one for sharing her story and the latter for giving Maverick his voice.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas, read by Dion Graham. 8 hours, 17 minutes. HarperAudio, 2021.

Andy Myers is an aspiring Librarian toiling his way through the MLIS program at Wayne State University. Andy embraced audiobooks to make lengthy commutes more manageable, but has since fallen in love with this wonderful avenue to enjoying literature. An occasional thespian, Andy understands the power of a great performance and believes that an outstanding narrator can enhance just about any book. @AndyBeau

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