In this prequel to The Hate U Give, Thomas delves into the upbringing of Maverick Carter, the father of THUG’s protagonist, Starr. Mav is one of the subordinates (“li’l homies”) of neighborhood gang the King Lords and the son of one of the gang’s incarcerated OGs. At 17, Mav and his hotheaded best friend, King—both responsible for recruiting and initiating new members and dealing weed for the King Lords—have begun slinging harder drugs on the side, under the gang leaders’ noses. Risking hard time like his father or death like King’s dad by leading a double life, Mav soon finds himself in over his head when he discovers he’s fathered a child by King’s off-and-on girlfriend, who promptly abandons the baby to his care. Convincingly detailing the journey of a young Black man growing into fatherhood, Thomas brings her trademark wit, nostalgic love of the 1990s and all things R&B and hip-hop, and her penchant for heartfelt characterization to this first-person exploration of Maverick Carter’s coming-of- age. Through its portrayal of loss and upheaval, this story acts as a tender love letter to a close Black family and community—one that isn’t without problems but is always full of love. Ages 14–up. Agent: Brooks Sherman, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Jan.)
Booklist (starred review)
Thomas delivers a poignant prequel to The Hate U Give…. Maverick's story is one that offers hope, encouragement, and optimism.
This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).
The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.
A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Maverick "Lil Don" Carter is a 17-year-old King Lord growing up in the Garden Heights district. The King Lords have been in existence long before Maverick was born, so his life has always been steeped in gang culture. Maverick knows that the game can steal family, friends, and time from you. His father Adonis's imprisonment is a testament to that fact. Maverick's cousin Dre and his friend Shawn try to keep Maverick from falling too deep into the game, but Maverick's best friend King keeps finding new ways to convince him to deepen his involvement. The unexpected joys and pains of fatherhood, the death of one of his best friends, and another unexpected pregnancy threaten to break Maverick's tenuous hold on his own sanity. How can he cut ties with the King Lords, raise his son, prepare for another child, and maintain his independence? The pressure Maverick is under yields some startling blooms in this novel about tenacity and rebirth. This is the perfect example of a narrative that straddles the beauty and pain of belonging and having the courage to make your own choices. Maverick Carter, who is Black, is a wonderfully complex character who will resonate with readers of all stripes. Thomas writes with a depth of humor and clarity that really allows readers to bond with the characters. VERDICT This prequel to The Hate U Give is perfect for public and school libraries.—Desiree Thomas, Worthington Lib., OH