The Black Kids
Author: Christina Hammonds Reed
Rated for a Pop Culturally laden wake up call to color, sexuality, and teen drama.
Los Angeles, 1992…
Ashley Bennet live s a charmed life. Senior year is coming to an end. Ashley and her friends are looking forward a fun summer/ That all changes after four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. After that, Ashley soon realizes that she’s not just one of the girl but one of the black kids.
Violent protests break out across the city. But Ashley goes on like everything is normal while bits and pieces leak into it such as her sister getting dangerously involved in the rioting, her friends helping her spread a horrible rumor about fellow classmate and black kid, LaShawn Johnson, and her cousin Morgan coming over to hide out while her uncle protects the family store from looters downtown. So much is changing around Ashley and she is unsure of what future awaits as she tries to figure out who’s really her friend and who isn’t. Who’s the us and who’s the them?
This book took me back and shoved me forward in time, all at once. From the characters to the era to the issues, this is a must read. I don’t say that just because this is a phenomenal read. I say this because it naturally approaches several issues we face today. From racism to sexism to class, Reed crosses all the lines gracefully and at full speed. Also, the cover is absolutely gorgeous in color and how it perfectly sums up the timeframe the story takes place in and during Ashley’s life. Definitely an eye-catcher.
The Pop Culture references everywhere were sublimely on point. From the neon nail polish to the TV shows referenced along with music and even the lingo. Outrageous and wonderful and dramatic but it kept me hooked with its twist and turns. Every chapter changed everything.
This is a MUST READ. I don’t say that just because it’s a phenomenally written YA but also because it’s so incredibly relevant. Though fiction, this story took place during a very real point in time. Everything that occurs from girls afraid to be themselves and being called sluts for just wearing their bathing suit to racial slurs being used like its common slang and domestic violence are still real issues that haven’t been squashed. This book gave a firsthand look and you felt what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such hatefulness.
The friendship dynamics was spectacular yet tragic. Unique and colorful, you could see how and why Ashley felt the way she did about her friends and potential future friends. How much she cared and missed the way they used to be when they were younger. Nostalgia and saudade (the feeling of sadness in missing a person). There is a real struggle when it comes to friends. They can lift you up and support you like no other but they can also be your downfall, especially if they don’t respect or care about you.
LA is an incredible city. Smoggy and has its grow points but there is so much to love about it, too. Reed showed both sides. Diversity is here and it’s not easy. All of the hiccups that shouldn’t exist in this world but do are here. It’s cringy not because it’s ridiculous but because it hurts and is uncomfortable and that’s good. That’s everything. It proved understanding in a way that isn’t forced.
This is a major wake-up call to so much that needs to be heard and, here, you can experience it. Powerful and compelling; this is imperative for the young generation. You won’t be able to put it down. Not just a history lesson of an important time in recent history but a coming of age like no other. This novel provides understanding of being sheltered, police brutality, profiling and more. All of it is scary, especially with it shown through the eyes of teenager that has been sheltered and has yet to dip her toes in the pool of adulthood. Still, it’s a phenomenal book.
“The joke goes that in Los Angeles we have four seasons—fire, flood, earthquake, and drought.” (Ashley, p. 5)
“Growing older with other people means stretching and growing and shrinking in all the right or wrong places so that sometimes you look at your friend’s face and it’s like a fun-house mirror reflection of what it used to be.” (p. 12)
“Like every song was a really good lasagna.” (p. 129)
“Being an adult sometimes seems lonelier than being a kid.” (Ashley, p. 216)
More to come soon…
Song Today? Jump by Kriss Kross.
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