Title: The Black Kids
Author: Christina Hammonds Reed
Publisher/Publish Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/August 4, 2020
Genre: YA contemporary
Edition/Pages: E-book ARC/368 pages
Trigger warning: Police brutality, racism, cheating, suicide (mentioned), abuse, underage alcohol and substance use
The Black Kids is a YA contemporary book that delves into social commentary, focusing on race and social injustice. We see the world through the eyes of Ashley Bennett, our main character. Ashley has grown up in a wealthy, but sheltered, life in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood and going to predominantly Caucasian schools. In her senior year, the Rodney King riots occur, bringing to light social injustices and police brutality. As the world focuses on the riots in LA, Ashley chooses to continue life as normal, turning her head as her very own city, her home, and social life come crumbling down.
This is the first book I’ve read by Christina Hammonds Reed and I was not disappointed.
The writing is amazing. This story is told from the first-person point of view and I think that was a great choice. Reed does a good job of getting inside the head of a teen girl. I was not born when the LA riots occurred, but Reed makes sure we, as readers, knew how it felt to live in that time. She repaints a vivid picture of the violence, protests, and social injustice that happened during the time. Sadly, it is the same picture we see today in our world.
The story begins a bit slow in the first third of the book but picks up in the last two-thirds. The story is well-paced and easy to follow. Some flashbacks help us understand the cause that happens in the past to explain the effect in the present.
Reed also writes good characters with human flaws. Characters that make us emotional; characters that make us laugh and make us angry; characters that we root for until the very end, whether it be for their demise or triumph.
Ashley is a flawed and ignorant character; and I don’t mean that she was dumb or intelligent. Ashley’s parents made sure that she and her sister, Jo, would never know what it meant to be black and poor; what it meant to grow up in the ‘hood. In her parents’ words: they were spoiled brats. And because of this, Ashley brushes off the racism that is thrown her way, turning the other cheek, which angered me.
In the beginning, she was fine, definitely not my favorite character. I disagreed with a lot of the things she did at the start of the book. As the riots happen, she begins to take note of her blackness more. She begins to take a step back and analyze her life and her culture. By the end, I felt that she was beginning to grow, learning from her mistakes and making a 180 degree turn.
Each side character was integral to the plot. Some were enjoyable, like LaShawn and Lana. Some were downright horrible people. Ashley’s three best friends are…something, and that’s all I’ll say without getting into spoiler territory. Her parents and sister were also a piece of work; each having their own internal and external problems that shape Ashley into the girl we see throughout the book.
The only thing that bothered me was the ending. I wanted more. There were confrontations between characters that I was expecting but didn’t happen. I would have been more satisfied if they took place.
I took joy in reading this book. It makes me want to read more books that focus on the same themes. The Black Kids is a great debut for Reed and a must read for everyone. If you loved The Hate U Give, you will definitely enjoy this.
RATING: 4.5 STARS
ARC provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.