CW: pregnancy, abortion (my speaking about it, not an indication of what is in the book!)
This is decidedly not a spoiler-y because everyone and their mother has read The Hate U Give by now. If you haven’t, I’m very confused as to why you are reading a review for the Lucas-esque prequel-that-was-written after.
Again, it is no spoiler that Maverick is going to have two kids. The story begins VERY much in media res with him finding out that Iesha is pregnant with Seven, so much so that you have whiplash being first thrown into his mindset and then secondly into the Three Men and a Baby storyline, except it’s One Man And His Mother And A Baby. And then when Lisa is around, with her dreams of basketball scholarships, it’s all you can do to scream at the screen (of your Kindle) GET YOURSELF ON BIRTH CONTROL IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE HAVING SEX. And look, at the end of the day all I could think was that we’re getting Starr (Amandla Stenberg!) so it’s not all that bad. But still, gosh darn it, it drives me nuts that ostensibly reasonable characters with ambition and motivation don’t more seriously consider abortion.
Which is to say: this book was always going to lose me, because I really should start to disqualify books about accidental pregnancies that change the entire motivation for what a character should do. I just cannot. You know how people find things triggering? All sorts of things, for which there are content warnings and trigger warnings? This is mine. Many a story has been ruined for me because of this. Listing them all out would be spoilerific, so I won’t, but suffice to say this lost me very hard because of it.
I’m not saying I don’t know it’s true! And I’m not saying that people don’t have differing priorities! It just drives me to frustration and I cannot.
Setting all that aside, I think this book loses a star for its lack of a tight plot, gains a star because it doesn’t need to have one per se, loses a star because Maverick makes for a much less compelling character than Starr or Bri, gains a star for (as always) unapologetically showing life in the Garden, loses a star for feeling a bit bait-and-switch-y for not getting to Maverick’s exit from the King Lords (aka feels like there’s another book in this series) and gains a star because at the end of the day this is all backstory for Starr. Lots of back and forth, the definition of three star.
Thomas’ writing is on point, if a bit heavy handed sometimes (extended metaphors about roses: needing to prune away the dead parts to let the plant grow, needing to give the clipping time to plant roots so it can weather the frost, joys of flowers despite their lack of utility). It’s easy to visualize what’s going on, and while some plot points feel like they come out of nowhere, the feeling of whiplash seems almost atmospheric at times.