Angie Thomas, whose bestselling debut YA novel, The Hate U Give, was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, has written another novel that is highly anticipated due to its timeliness. Concrete Rose (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray), a prequel to The Hate U Give, tells the story of 17-year old Maverick Carter (Starr’s father), who resists pressure placed upon him to join a gang while he also contends with becoming a young parent.
Just as she did with The Hate U Give and her second novel, On the Come Up, Thomas will go on a national tour to promote Concrete Rose, which will be released on January 12 with a 500,000-copy announced first printing.
Of course, due to the pandemic, this tour will be much different from Thomas’s previous ones: HarperCollins has informed PW exclusively that Thomas’s upcoming tour will be a series of virtual appearances, spread out over 11 days in January, and designed to draw in both U.S. and Canadian readers. It will also feature special guests interacting with Thomas—stars in the literary world as well as movie stars.
Emphasizing that she will miss meeting her fans in person, Thomas expressed gratitude that she will still be able to connect with them through the magic of technology. She also mentioned a few side benefits to touring virtually rather than in-person, especially in January. “Virtual tours make events more accessible to my readers as well,” she wrote in an email to PW. “Also, I don’t have to worry about travel and weather concerns. As a Southerner, I’m allergic to freezing temperatures.”
For her tour events, Thomas intends to log on from her home office, but may shake things up by sitting in her living room, close to the fireplace so as to provide a “more intimate feel” to the proceedings. “The key is to make the events feel as personal as possible,” she explained. “I want my readers to feel like we’re just having a conversation, that I’m talking with them and not to them.”
Each of the six “stops” on the tour will be hosted by a bookstore and/or literary organization and will include during the first three appearances another Black author of YA fiction who will engage in conversation with Thomas about Concrete Rose and other topics. If Thomas’s conversation with Justin A. Reynolds, which was the opening keynote during the New England Independent Booksellers Association’s virtual fall conference in September, is any indication of what audiences can expect, discussions will be lively and wide-ranging in scope as well as provocative.
On January 12, the tour will kick off with MahoganyBooks, a Black-owned indie in Washington, D.C., hosting Thomas with Nic Stone. The following evening, January 13, Barnes & Noble will welcome Thomas and Dhonielle Clayton. On January 14, Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston will host Thomas with Justin Reynolds. And a January 15 event will be hosted by Lemuria Books, Thomas’s hometown bookstore in Jackson, Miss.; actor Russell Hornsby, who played Maverick in the film adaptation of The Hate U Give, will join her.
The tour will virtually cross the U.S.-Canadian border on January 19—although physically, the border remains closed to U.S. residents. The event, sponsored by Canada’s Festival of Literary Diversity, held since 2016 in Brampton, Ont., is co-hosted by Indigo, the Canadian bookstore chain, with a conversation partner yet to be determined. The final event on January 21 will return stateside and will feature two co-hosts: Family Action Network, a Chicagoland nonprofit organization that curates a speaker series during the school year, and The Book Stall in Winnetka, Ill. Another Black actor, Dion Graham, will speak with Thomas that evening. Graham provided Maverick’s voice in the audiobook version of The Hate U Give.
“I’m super excited to be in conversation with all of the authors and artists,” Thomas said. “Each one of them connects to Concrete Rose in some way, whether through their influence on me as a writer or their love for the character of Maverick. And I’m definitely looking forward to speaking with Russell Hornsby and Dion Graham.”
Several participating booksellers echoed Thomas’s excitement about the tour, with two of them noting other (in-person) “firsts” they’ve shared with the author. Cathy Berner, Blue Willow Bookshop’s children’s/YA specialist and events coordinator, declared, “We’ve been fans of Angie’s work since The Hate U Give and were honored to be with her when she first saw a finished copy as well as when she shared the trailer for the movie. Her books fly off the shelf at our bookstore! We’re looking forward to sharing the conversation between Angie and Justin” with store customers and others tuning in from all over the world. Hillary Taylor, events director at Lemuria Books, Thomas’s local indie, was just as enthusiastic. “We’re thrilled to host our beloved Angie Thomas for her new release,” Taylor said. “We held Angie's first-ever book signing back in 2017, with a line out the door, and we've been watching her grow as an author ever since. Angie is such a special friend to the store and we simply cannot wait for Concrete Rose to hit our shelves.”
When asked if there was any lesson she learned while on tour for The Hate U Give or On the Come Up that she could incorporate during a virtual tour, Thomas responded simply with four words, “Don’t spoil the book.”
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas, HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $19.99, Jan. 12, 2021 ISBN 978-0-06-305373-1