Title: The Black Kids
Author: Christina Hammonds Reed
Release Date: August 3, 2020
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for continuing with this tour and for the advanced copy!
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?
With a title like that you just know this book is going to tackle racism head on. It discusses important topics such as systematic racism, self-identity and privilege. Set against the backdrop of the 1992 Rodney King Riots it’s an eerily familiar backdrop, showing that history does in fact repeat itself. It’s actually incredibly disheartening how little has changed in almost 18 years.
Ashley is from a well-off family, seemingly living the perfect life that racism does not effect. A facade that comes crumbling down once the riots start. I loved being in her head! She was so funny and I loved her wit. As a white middle-class female I got to see everything, life, from her perspective. We get to follow her on her journey of self discovery and I just found that to be so hard hitting since this is a path we’ve all been on recently in different ways. Ash dealt with racism everyday whether in subtle ways or outright.
While such an important story with beautiful writing it does have a rather slow pace. Another thing to keep in mind also is that it’s also very much a character development driven story. I really enjoyed all the 90’s references though! It was such a fun throwback while also bringing to light things I didn’t know. We get this amazing character and rich history combination.
As I am not Black I can’t speak too much to that aspect of the book, but I did find certain parts uncomfortable as I should. Blatant racism and police brutality should not be easy to read. Hammonds did an amazing job of addressing these topic, bringing them to light even more so. We get a full rounded story of what it’s like to be not only a teen but a Black teen.
I’m so glad I picked this book up and I don’t think anyone will regret doing so. Reed has put out an amazing debut novel that is relevant period, but even more so with the murder of George Floyd and countless others and the riots happening. Change doesn’t happen overnight but as I said before it’s disheartening to see just how little change has occurred. These are the stories that need to be told and I’m so glad that they’re being shared and promoted so widely.