Title: The Black Kids
Author: Christina Hammonds Reed
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young
Release Date: August 4h, 2020
Rating: 5/5 Stars
*Thank you Simon & Schuster for providing a review copy and the opportunity to be on this book tour*
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?
Wow. This book was an absolute rewarding experience to read. Masterful writing, tough decisions & events, great character development and a setting backdrop to make any 90’s kids live a moment they were too young to live and anyone old enough to truly live in the 90’s to relive some revolutionary stuff. Christina has a way with words and each page is proof of that. From the prologue, you are swept into LA 1992 during the Rodney King riots, a tumultuous and liberating time and a time that Ashley was really figuring out who she was and she she stood in the world.
As mentioned earlier, Ashley is going through a journey of self-discovery as she figure out where her place is n the world as one of the only Black kids amongst her friends and a privileged Black teen. The trials initially weren’t a thing she thought much about, but as time progresses in this book, she begins to realizes just how important and impactful it is to her own daily life and identity. Through this journey she realizes how much her parents have protected her along the way form the realities of being Black in a White dominated society. Ashley’s character development was top notch. She was relatable in so many different ways. She is witty, snarky, caring and all that is shown through her interactions with her family and her inner monologues with herself. I also loved that the more she questioned something, the more she became more aware of the things she was once protected from.
The setting was an important part of this book and the reason I kept reading along. It challenged what I knew about the Rodney King Riots, the trial and what it was like being Black during that time. Although I do not identify as Black, this book continued to show me how much I didn’t know about this pivotal point in time and to also continue to acknowledge the privilege I have as a White passing Latina.. It was the reason that after reading, I looked more into Rodney King, the riots, the trials and everything that happened during that time. I was happy to be challenged by my lack of knowledge because it showed me, again, how much I still needed to learn. I highly recommend looking into this time in history if you haven’t done so because there is so much about this and many other events before and after this that tie into the events occurring today.
I cannot recommend this book enough! It has astounding writing, a powerful message, vivid and real backdrop and it’s just so good. If you want a book that packs a punch, has hopeful moments and a ton of quotable moments, buy this book! The Black Kids is a book that will keep you turning the page to find out what happens next with Ashley. Even if you don identify with the identities in this book, you should still pick this up, read it and continue to educate yourself on the injustices Black face have and still face everywhere, but more specifically in the US.
“We have to walk around being perfect all the time just to be seen as human. Don’t you ever get tired of being a symbol? Don’t you ever just want to be human”
“You can’t disenfranchise a huge portion of the population and not expect shit to go down. I mean, what they did to him is awful, but really, Rodney’s just the tip of the whole goddamn iceberg.”
About the Author
Christina Hammonds Reed holds an MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. A native of the Los Angeles area, her work has previously appeared in the Santa Monica Review and One Teen Story. The Black Kids is her first novel.