Title: The Black Kids
Author: Christina Hammonds Reed
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub Date: 08/04/20
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/ Coming-of-Age
Edition: Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC)
Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.
Los Angeles, 1992
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.
Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.
As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.
With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?
I don’t know what to say other than read The Black Kids. Reading this book was like seeing little glimpses of myself, seeing the microaggressions I had to take with a straight face growing up in predominantly white spaces, seeing the complexities and politics of Blackness and not always understanding what it must feel like to be at your wits end and thinking that burning is the only thing you can do to get the world to pay attention, and especially seeing the internalized anti-blackness and misogyny that has to be unlearned. Ashley goes on a journey of awareness throughout this book that mirrors some of the realizations I had to embrace as a teen.
One of the best and saddest things about this book is that it feels timeless in a way. Parts of it will always be a little true and relevant to present times. I hope I’m wrong and that future generations won’t have to contend with the same struggles, but for now it felt like I could be reading a book about the events in 2020. I guess in a way the language of the oppressed peoples never changes though.
While I did enjoy the last 50% of the book, it took me around half the book to really get into it as Ashley read younger than a senior in high school to me, so it was difficult for me to adjust and wrap my head around her frame of mind, but when the action started picking up it really helped. Her naïveté just didn’t always make sense to me considering her age. Seeing her overcome some of her ignorance was rewarding though as I think a lot of us have been ignorant or naive about the lived experiences of others at some point in our life.
I feel like I should have mentioned this first, but Lana is the best thing about this book. She was my favorite character, and I just loved her so much and wanted the best for her. She was sincere, humorous, and a good friend (someone Ashley should have surrounded herself with from the beginning). I also really liked the historical aspect of the book as I enjoyed doing research on some on the aspects of the riots and Guatemalan history I wasn’t familiar with.
Overall, I think The Black Kids is an important book and is especially perfect for younger readers or anyone who wants to read an engaging coming-of-age novel.
Y’all there were so many powerful and relatable quotes in this book that I struggled so much to narrow my favorites down.
Christina Hammonds Reed holds an MFA in Film and Television Production from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Her short fiction has previously appeared in the Santa Monica Review. She lives in Hermosa Beach, CA. Find her on Instagram.
Where to Buy
Thank you so much for reading my post about The Black Kids! You can find the links to everyone else’s posts on tour (which includes OwnVoices reflections, video reviews, and playlists) on Hear Our Voices.