The Black Kids: An Important Read in Today's Time

§ I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel. §

"The Black Kids" follows Ashley during the time of the Rodney King Riots in L.A. in 1992. She lived a carefree life, enjoying the summer and sun, until four police men beat a black name almost to death. Even as the riots break out, Ashley tries to continue her normal routine and ignore that she might be seen as one of "the black kids". 

The longer the riots take, the more her family is effected by them, and she has to confront the harsh truths of her family, as well as asking herself questions ... 

The Black Kids  by Christina Hammonds Reed
The Black Kids  by Christina Hammonds Reed

In its essence this is a coming-of-age story that focuses on Ashley and her relationship with race, and being black. Sure, she is black but at the same time wealthy. So before the riots, she lives a sheltered and good life, having little to no contact to the black community or the other black kids in her school. All her friends are white, and she never had to worry about money. When asked what she thinks of the Rodney King case, she doesn't have an answer because she has not really paid attention. 

However, Ashley has experienced and seen racism targeted towards her. As her mother had to search for a hair-stylist that does black hair, as well as disrespectful behaviour from her friends using slurs too liberal. Often she lets this behaviour slide and does not even explain the issue to her friends. 

This places Ashley at a good place for the reading to start, as she has a basic understanding and experiences of racism in America. So as the story progresses the reader can grow alongside her, and as she starts to understand things, these also register with the reader. 

This is also due to the haunting fact that despite taking place in the 90s, the book might was well take place this year. You just need to exchange a walk-man for an iPhone, and that is pretty much that. 

The story does not only show one version of being black. Ashley and her family lead a wealthy life, and her parents always tried to shelter her from the harsh world. Meanwhile, her cousin and uncle have a different life, having taken over her grandmother's shop. Thus, their experiences during the riots are significantly different. As well as LaShawn's life, who got into school via a scholarship and lives in the poor parts of L.A. directly effected by the riots. 

The riots are part of Ashley's coming-of-age story but she also grows by making mistakes in her private life. She finds new friends, and fucks up by trying to do the right thing.  She also has to come to terms with her sister's problems. However, I was never able to get behind any of the love stories that played out. In the end, most of those aspects are influenced by the riots even if Ashley does not want that to be.  

However, sometimes I had issues with the writing style. There are past/present switches which disrupt the whole story - but in the end they give a broader picture. It feels similar to a *record scratch, freeze frame* meme. In general, the writing is easy to follow the Ashley's thoughts are clear but these little moments really threw the pace of the novel. 

"The Black Kids" is an important read, especially considering the George Floyd riots that are happening at the moment. As such it helps further understanding the situation and learning more about racism in America based on historical events but softening the blow with a fictional story build around it. 

The Black Kids  by Christina Hammonds Reed
 published  2020 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
 pages    368 
 ISBN13 9781534462724 
trigger warnings: racial slurs, mentions of violence
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