Book Review

The Black Kids

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. I am providing my honest opinion voluntarily.

The Black Kids

Author: Christina Hammonds Reed

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Contemporary

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

TRIGGER WARNING: racial slurs for Black people, riots, racism, cancer, substance use, police brutality, suicide, abuse

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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?

This is one of those books that should be added to the high school curriculum, in my opinion.

I actually remember when the events in this book happened. Granted, I was young and living completely across the country, but it’s the first time I can ever recall being really aware of a major, racial event occurring in my own lifetime. (I’m sure there were plenty that actually happened, just not that actually popped up on my young radar). However, it was really interesting to revisit this event not only from my own adult point of view, but to see it through the eyes of a young Black girl who lived in the area.

As the police officers are acquitted, and LA descends into riots, she starts to see things a little differently, even as she tries to go on as though everything is normal. The “perfect family” front her parents have worked so hard to maintain is crumbling. Her sister gets actively involved in the riots. Her friends spread a malicious rumor that could ruin the bright future of a fellow student, one who happens to be Black. Ashley realizes that she can’t keep pretending everything is normal.

Ashley has to figure out where she stands as her world is literally burning — facing the intersection of race, class, and violence, as she learns more about who she is, who she wants to be, and who her real friends are.

If you get the chance to read this one, definitely do it. It’s told through the eyes of a girl in her late teens, and it feels so genuine. The story is deep and unflinching, but meaningful and real. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.

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