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?
Christina Hammonds Reed holds an MFA in Film and Television Production from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Her short fiction has previously appeared in the Santa Monica Review. She lives in Hermosa Beach, CA.
This was different than I expected it to be, but not in a bad way at all. The writing style was quite unique and I thought it suited the storyline perfectly. This was definitely difficult to read at times but I felt like I learned a lot and gained a lot while reading it. This deals with a number of issues like racism, police brutality, and it did so in an unflinchingly honest way, which is what made it such a difficult read. It will definitely infuriate you. While I didn't love the main character, I appreciated how flawed she was and thought she was the perfect perspective from which the story was told. Overall, I will definitely be looking out for more by this author.
“sometimes people, they see your skin, and all they know of you is war”
i try not to read books anyone with books with police brutality because i’d like to see more black joy in books and i think that black people have seen enough trauma but i decided to pick up this book because i heard it had a different perspective than most. from the moment i started this book i knew i’d love. it made me so frustrated and angry, it invoked so many emotions from the first chapter and that’s exactly what i look for in books. the main character is pretty much meh for me, she’s emotionally detached and very impulsive but i still loved the authors writing. she had some one liners that had me thinking about them for hours. this also has cheating and typically i hate cheating in books but the girlfriend in this one is a violently racist asshole so i actually don’t care. this book touches on so much more than just police brutality. they talk about black wall street, lightskin privilege in families and generational mental health. i cannot wait time read more from this author.
In 1992, Ashley Bennett is a Senior at a private high school, living in a posh L.A. neighborhood with her parents.
You could say Ashley has been afforded a somewhat sheltered existence.
Her parents did everything they could to provide Ashley, and her older sister, with a less stressful childhood than they had, which I think is something a lot of parents do.
But even her parents admit, for reasons you learn as the novel progresses, they may have sheltered their girls too much.
At her school, Ashley is one of only a handful of black kids in attendance. Regardless of the numbers however, all of her friends are white.
Ashley doesn't find it odd that she is the only black girl in her friend group. It has always been that way and even when her closest friends make racist comments, she shrugs it off. It's just how it goes.
Her comfy existence is shaken, however, after a young black man, Rodney King, is beaten nearly to death by LAPD Officers and the subsequent trial of those involved.
Even though there is video evidence of this heinous act of violence, the policemen are acquitted and unsurprisingly, the city erupts in anger at the gross miscarriage of justice. Protests and riots sweep the city and the topic of race is on everyone's lips.
Ashley's older sister, Jo, unable to sit by and watch, becomes involved in the protests, while at the same time, their Uncle's store is threatened by looters. The Bennetts feel unsafe leaving their house and the smell of smoke and char lingers in the air.
These events force Ashley to examine her life and her position as a black woman in a way she never has before. She starts to learn more about her family, the other kids at school and what it means to be black in America.
This book was a ride for me. I feel like my attachment to it evolved along with the story itself.
It was a difficult one for me to rate, as I was torn almost the entire way through about how I felt about it.
On the one hand, the content, real-world issues and personal growth, were A++, 5-stars. This story is extremely topical and definitely packs a punch.
On the other hand, there's the style in which it is told. That is what was rough for me. The stream of consciousness narrative is always very hard for me to get into. It just does not vibe for me.
If I were rating this book based solely on that, I would have given it 3-stars. I decided on a 4-star rating as it is a fair way for me to express my overall experience with the story; style versus substance be damned.
Please note, my personal preference of generally not enjoying stream of consciousness narrative is in no way a reflection on this author. It is clear that she is very talented and I am sure she chose the format she felt was best for expressing Ashley's experiences.
In short, I loved the underlining story, even though the style wasn't necessarily to my tastes. Does that make sense?
Additionally, I thought using a momentous historical event to frame this discussion was such a smart choice. It made the whole story feel very real.
I was in the 8th-grade at the time the officers were originally acquitted and although I lived on the opposite-side of the country, the impact was felt like a shock wave. I have never read a fictionalized story framed around that time and really appreciated that context.
I also appreciated Ashley's growth as a character. She truly transformed from start to finish and by the end, I was so attached her. I actually wouldn't mind a follow-up story of her and her family.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this novel. It's a hard-hitting Contemporary that everyone should read.
A huge thank you to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.
I look forward to reading more from Christina Hammonds Reed in the future! She's one to watch!
Let me start this review with a say that I don't feel capable to give The Black Kids proper, critical review as I am a white girl living in a country with mostly white people, and the only Black man I ever knew was my pediatric. So this review is 100% subjective, and every feedback, criticism or say is very welcomed.
I wish the circumstances were different and that things that happened in the book weren't so similar to what is happening in the America, and the world, right now.
The Black Kids is coming of age story about a wealthy black girl who goes to school with mostly white kids.
We follow the story through Ashley's POV, and the book is focused on her life and her experience, but riots that happened in 1992 in L.A. are always in the background.
In my country we do mention Rodney King Riots from time to time, but not enough.
I know it is not on black people to educate others, but I do feel like I have to mention that The Black Kids opened my eyes and helped me understand them more.
It is said in the blurb that this novel is perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, and I can see why, but I also want to stress out that it is completely different story and it deserves praise without comparison to another popular piece.
The story is well written, if I didn't see it in ya section, I'd think it was adult contemporary (or historical).
Ashley was great narrator, even though I didn't like some of her actions and I especially disliked how bad of a friend she was. I think all that makes her more realistic, and I appreciate her so much as a character.
In the end, I just want to say that I am really happy that I read The Black Kids and am looking forward to read more books written by black authors.
"We have to walk around being perfect all the time just to be seen as human. Don’t you ever get tired of being a symbol? Don't you ever just want to be human"
The Black Kids is a coming of age story about a young black teen navigating the end of high school in the midst of 1992 riots in LA. We follow our main character Ashley deal with college applications, friendship drama, familial tension and finding her own place in the world. The relationships are messy, but incredibly authentic. The characters are not always the most likeable, but they feel real and raw.
"I'm beginning to think that's kind of what being an adult is- learning that sometimes people are a little bit wrong, but not for the reasons that you think they are, and also a little bit right, and you try to take the good with the bad. Right now, we're young and still figuring out how to be good."
Despite the historical fiction label on this book, replace the name Rodney King with George Floyd and The Black Kids could easily be set in 2020. As someone who is neither American nor black, I had no knowledge of the riots prior to reading this. Almost thirty years later and history is repeating itself, demonstrating the criticality of not only learning about history but learning from it. It is horrifying how little has changed in terms of the racism and micro aggressions present.
"Since it's an election year, everybody's coming to see the damage for themselves, to walk their shiny leather shoes among the ruins and proclaim what's wrong with Los Angeles and how their party's gonna make it right, or how the other party made it wrong."
The writing was incredibly well done. It was lyrical but effortless in its beauty. I highlighted countless passages and quotes that resonated deeply within me. I have a feeling that every reader will take something unique from it, the sign of a layered and intricate story.
"If all the heroes in our stories are white, what does that make us?"
The characters were all uncomfortably realistic. I could objectively appreciate the reality of their personalities but it didn't translate to a completely enjoyable experience. As a character driven reader, I couldn't latch onto many characters, which is typically what keeps me engaged in a story and caring about the outcome. This is obviously a personal issue, so if you can get past unlikeable characters I think you will find this book even more impactful.
The Black Kids is an educational and enlightening story woven in between a coming of age story that lends it a human perspective and personal connection. It is my hope that more books like this can emerge and educate young adults, telling the stories of the oppressed so that one day they can truly be historical fiction.
"Even though you finally enact a Civil Rights Act not even thirty years ago, it doesn't erase centuries of unequal access, unequal schooling, unequal living conditions, unequal policing. You can't tell people to pull up on bootstraps when half of them never had any boots to begin with, never even had the chance to get them. Or when you let people burn whole, thriving black communities to the ground and conveniently forget about it. Because maybe the problem isn't with 'bad' people; maybe the problem is with the whole system."
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for this ARC
I was sent a copy of this book via Netgalley to review. This in no way influences my opinion of the book.
Oof this book packs a punch. In the span of these pages, this book not only tackles subjects such as systematic racism, privilege, and identity, but it also presents one of the most authentic depictions of teenage life that I've read. The complicated family dynamics that come from wanting to protect those you love while acknowledging how ignoring problems can only make things worse. The conversations about knowing when it's best to leave a friendship behind, instead of merely settling for what's comfortable. Knowing what's worth handing effort to, even if it initially seems more energy than necessary. All of these things, told through a tale of the good and the bad parts of teenage life, really struck me as an authentic representation without my fantasy-loving-heart finding it tedious to follow. It all just worked.
I have to give a massive appreciation to the ending - no spoilers, of course. All I'll say is I'm highly impressed it managed to give me the satisfied "everything will be ok in the end" feeling while notably not being typically ok. Things aren't wrapped up in a sweet little bowtie and served on a platter for your amusement. It feels real, and while the way various strands of this book ended can't necessarily be considered happy, it did still manage to feel like an ending of sorts.
I really enjoyed this book. I can see myself pushing it into the hands of many. I sincerely hope this reaches the same level of hype and acclaim as most popular YA contemporaries, because this is one of the strongest I've read by far.
This was one of my most anticipated reads for 2020, but I put it off for a long time and part of me is glad that I did. This was a solid book, but it wasn't as enjoyable for me as I expected.
The Black Kids is set against the backdrop of the 1992 L.A. Riots after the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. The main character, Ashley, attempts to ignore the impact this has on the city, but quickly learns that regardless of whether she ignores it or not, it will change her life. It would be foolish to say that this book isn't unique because it is. There aren't any YA books (that I know of) that tackle this specific time of history. I was excited to pick this book up because of the fact that it reminds people that police brutality isn't a product of the 21st century. It's been happening for an extremely long time. However, the trouble that I had with this book came in the form of the main character Ashley. She's not likeable. While it's interesting to see the idea of Blackness tackled from a place of wealth, an unlikeable main character makes a story hard to sell. It's clear that Ashley has been sheltered...extremely sheltered. It's not that she's not "Black enough" (she knows her history), but she's extremely naive and it's frustrating. Her friends are racist and she's so non-chalant about it. She does two horrible things in the book that impact multiple characters and there is never any explanation as to why she does those things. I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be the catalyst to the conflict between Ashley and her White friends, but it wasn't executed well.
This book does delve heavily into identity which is important especially because Ashley does end up recognizing the weight of intersectionality (identifying as Black and as a woman); however, I think that sometimes it gets lost in the narrative. While Reed's writing was great, the way that this book was structured made the story itself quite jumbled. Nevertheless, I do feel like Reed was able to accomplish some interesting things with this book. It is a reminder that wealth is some cases isn't always just a privilege. It can simultaneously be a privilege and a hindrance. Reed was also able to create some really intriguing side characters. For example, Ashley's sister was a character that I would have loved to explore further. Her perception of Blackness and the role that it should have played during the riots has some complex consequences.
As I stated before, this is a solid debut book. I think that a lot of readers read this during the summer of 2020 so the impact of it then was timely and really woke some people up to the "unknown legacy" of police brutality. It's a book that I would recommend people to pick up for its unique themes, I just wasn't a fan of the characters or the pacing of the plot.
I'd been wanting to read THE BLACK KIDS ever since I heard about it in some listicle about new YA releases. It's set in the early 90s against the backdrop of the Rodney King riots and our heroine is an upper class African American teenager who doesn't really feel connected to her Black heritage at all-- until other people kind of force her to confront it by boxing her into stereotype after stereotype.
There was just so much to love about this book. Obviously the 90s fashions and cultural references were near and dear to my heart, but Hammonds Reed also does such a great job talking about things like intersectionality, cultural identity, taking a stand, dealing with toxic friendships, owning up to your own mistakes, and growing up. It's a coming of age story as well as a snapshot of history that is, sadly, still very much relevant today. You can't really shrug and say, "Well, at least things are better now" because when it comes to the treatment of people of color, our society is still dealing very much with infrastructural racism on a pretty large scale.
Ashley is such a great heroine. I loved how she was spoiled and difficult and made bad choices without the author making her out to be a bad person. She was just a flawed teenager with a ton of stuff on her plate, which is honestly one of my favorite kinds of heroines. I also loved how she starts out kind of timid and passive and ends up totally changing. The character development was fantastic and by the time you get to the end, you really feel how much she's grown as a person without being told. I also loved her family, her family history, and her new set of friends once she ditches the toxic ones.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed THE HATE U GIVE. I'm honestly shocked it isn't as popular because I think it's almost as good and would make a fantastic movie with an amazing soundtrack, too.
I'm so glad I picked this up. Set in 1992 Los Angeles during the riots following the Rodney King trial, this story is poignant and brings to light important societal issues in an accessible way. This book is YA and would no doubt be an excellent read for younger readers, however as an adult I enjoyed it very much too.
‘We have to walk around being perfect all the time just to be seen as human. Don’t you ever get tired of being a symbol?’
Set against the backdrop of the 1992 LA Rodney King riots, in The Black Kids we follow high school senior Ashley as she tries to navigate college applications, teenage gossip and being one of the few black kids at her school. With the news forcing her to think about her own place in the world, and where she fits into it as a privileged black kid, Ash goes on a journey of self-discovery and reflection. Along the way lifelong friendships are broken and new ones forged as Ashley finds out what her parents have tried to protect her from her whole life, and what it truly means to be Black in a White privileged world.
I really loved the writing in this. There were so many passages that I highlighted because they really resonated with me or made me think about race and my own complacency. Ashley’s friends often make throw away comments about race, or make risky decisions that put Ashley in danger without a second thought. They don’t realise that if Ashley is arrested, the outcome would be a lot different for her than the slap on the wrist they would probably get. Ashley constantly has wear this fake face every day in order to survive. Be the good girl, be the smart girl, be what everyone else wants you to be. But not too smart, or too pretty. It’s exhausting and you see this come out in Ashley. She really doesn’t know who she is until she starts to explore her own family history, and start to talk to people who understand what she’s going through. I especially enjoyed her relationship with LeShawn. On a surface level he opens Ashley’s eyes to the world around her and what it’s really like. But he also shows her that she doesn’t need to be anyone else but herself. Her relationship with Lana is much the same, although I do think she was underused and as a result her side story didn’t hit quite as hard as it could have done.
Ashley’s inner monologue is also very snarky and funny, which immediately makes her incredibly relatable. The way she describes Michael’s depth, comparing it to a lake or a paddling pool is something I would say. Her interactions with her sister further highlight just how witty Ashley is. When Jo states that she’s now a communist and she’s handing out leaflets at the riots with her new husband, Ashley’s first impression is that her sister is going through some kind of midlife crisis in her twenties. The two aren’t as close as they could be, and I think a lot of that is due to Jo thinking that Ashley is very complacent in her life and the way she’s treated. Jo is passionate about furthering black rights, and is very vocal about everything she does and the injustices she sees every day. But her recklessness can lead to terrible circumstances. Ashley just isn’t this spontaneous or rash.
I also really liked the setting for this. Not being American, or black, I had little to no knowledge of the 1992 LA riots and I thought this did an excellent job of not only bringing a part of forgotten history to life, but making me really interested in the topic. By including news footage on the radio or on the tv during important scenes with Ashley, her family and friends, the riots remain a constant reminder of what is happening outside and how it’s directly affecting Ashley. It adds to the overriding tension of the story, and brings the reader back to the important issues as hand. On top of this we are also told about older riots and looting of black businesses, highlighting the fact that nothing has changed. It brought to mind the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, which has also been conveniently swept under the carpet of American history. I really liked the fact that this story not only managed to move me, but also educate me at the same time.
My only negative is that I thought the story itself jumps around a little too much chronologically for my liking. We get flashbacks all over the place, from various points in Ashley’s life, which sometimes made me very confused as to what was going on. It managed to throw me out of the narrative a few times, and did affect my overall enjoyment. However, I do think this is a minor issue compared to the wonderful story overall.
When I think about what is going on right now with the Black Lives Matter movement and the horrific murder of George Floyd, I can’t help feeling that the ending is incredibly bitter sweet. The end is so hopeful, so full of love and understanding and finding yourself and your family and your people. Yet when you compare 1992 to now, nothing has changed. To make things better, to make things right - these teenagers hoped to change the world. But in my eyes, there’s been no progress. This is such an incredible book, that everyone can gain so much from and makes an excellent starting point to further non fiction research on the LA 1992 riots and beyond.
I enjoyed this book so much, especially its latter half! The novel follows Ashley Bennett, a privileged Black teenager going to high school in Los Angeles, California with a predominantly white friend group. At first glance, it appears that Ashley’s most pressing problems center on going to prom and figuring out what to wear for the occasion. However, the 1992 Los Angeles uprising begins to escalate after the acquittal of four police offers who beat an unarmed Black man, Rodney King, with excessive force. The chaotic energy in the town dovetails with Ashley’s more nuanced issues, such as her sister’s engagement in more direct action and protests much to her parents’ chagrin, mental health issues within her family, and Ashley’s own collusion in anti-Blackness. Throughout the novel we see Ashley grow even as she struggles and makes mistakes in her journey.
As you may sense from the above paragraph, a lot goes on in this novel, and for the first half I felt unsure whether Christina Reed would tie it all together in a satisfying way. However, the middle and end of this novel felt tighter and more enjoyable to read than the first 40% or so, perhaps because Ashley started to hang out with her white friend group less, most of whom perpetuated racism or at least did nothing to actively resist it. I loved seeing Ashley’s coming of age as she grew into her own person, how she developed confidence in her racial identity and her own voice. The novel takes on a lot, like what it means to exist as a wealthy Black teenager, the complexity of Black parents’ choices to shield their kids from racism and if they can even ever do so, the tribulations of associating with problematic white friends, and more. Reed manages to address all of these topics in a meaningful way though without minimizing their nuances. I got a bit teary-eyed in the final scenes between Ashley and her sister Jo, as well as Ashley and her caretaker Lucia.
Also, if I were several years younger, I would have been all over Lashawn (I’m embracing that even though I started my Goodreads account as a teen, I am now in my mid to late 20s, wow!) We love this positive representation of teen boys of color!
Overall, while I found the writing a little clunky for the first 30-40% of the novel and the focus on Ashley’s white friends draining, I consider this a powerful novel that I would recommend to those interested in young-adult fiction. I’m happy that in 2021 I’ve read several novels so far with three-dimensional female teens of color with distinct voices and meaningful stories, including When We Were Infinite by Kelly Loy Gilbert, Yolk by Mary Choi, and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erica Sanchez. Yay for having more options than solely Sarah Dessen.
My rating for this one is complex. Because this story is centered around my hometown when I was 5 years old. And the repercussions that penetrated my family & my community... I knew going into this that I would have a different perspective than I do most books.
All of that to say... it’s not a bad book at all. My feelings and thoughts are just incredibly complex. I will say that I liked almost everyone else in the book, except the main character. I just wasn’t a fan of her development — the pace of it or the depth.
I DO think people should read this book when it comes out. It is definitely a discussion worthy read.
As it happens so often lately, this book was eye-opening. Also saddening, as well as a real wake up call. But most of all a reminder of how much there is still to do.
And although the book started a bit slow for me, it didn’t take me long to get sucked into it’s powerful narrative. The balance between the historic background of the 1992 Rodney King Riots and the daily life of a Black teenage girl and her family in Los Angeles struck a cord. Because the way the story focused on Ashley’s life at home and school, made it even more realistic.
The author found a great balance of powerful narrative, and daily life of a Black teenage girl and her family in Los Angeles during the 1992 Rodney King Riots. The similarities between 1992 Los Angeles and the current situation in 2020 was crushing. I felt that not much has changed since then.
For someone growing up outside the US, I always appreciate it when I close a book and feel like I’ve learned something new. It was fascinating to read about Los Angeles’ Black history. And the many historic events that I wasn’t aware of, like the 1992 Rodney King Riots, and the much earlier Greenwood Massacre in Tulsa, 1921.
Overall, I would consider this book as MUST READ for anyone. And can only recommend it. BTW the audiobook was very well done!!!
Cover: 🌟🌟🌟🌟.5 This book cover is just stunning! I love the simplicity and link to key parts of the story.
Writing: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 There is no denying that the writing in this book is choppy and unfocused. Between the numerous tangents and rapid changes from past to current events, I initially found this writing style jarring. However, as the story progressed, I realised that the informal, conversational tone created is actually very fitting for the story.
"If all the heroes in our stories are white, what does that make us?"
Storyline: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 Because of the choppy writing, the storyline does not have a smooth flow. Despite this, the numerous topics around race, family and identity explored in the storyline kept it engaging.
Main character:🌟🌟🌟🌟 Ashley Bennett is not a perfect or particularly "woke" main character. She is spoilt, passive and impulsive, but she is also a teenager trying to find her place in the world. Her glaring flaws not only made her character's development more striking but also made her narrative more fascinating and realistic.
"We have to walk around being perfect all the time just to be seen as human"
Secondary characters: 🌟🌟🌟.5 While the secondary characters lacked as much depth as Ashley's character, they still felt well developed. Each character had a distinct personality and contributed to the various topics explored. However, none of these characters made a big impression on me as they lacked enough relatability and complexity.
Romance: 🌟🌟🌟 This was okay. I liked that the romance did not play a huge role in the storyline or become overly complex. It was really cute to follow but rather predictable as I managed to correctly guess how things would play out.
On the whole, 'The Black Kids' is not a story I would call action-packed or thrilling. Instead, it is a character-driven story that presents a fascinating perspective on the topic of race and other aspects of identity for readers to think about or discuss. These topics, along with the evolving main character and unique writing style, kept the story engaging.
“We’re here. We’re alive, and we got each other. We keep surviving. That’s not nothing, right?”
Ooooooooh boy it’s has been a minute since I’ve had a book hangover. Usually I mix up genres a little to keep things fresh, but I generally have zero problems starting a book right after finishing the previous one. It took me a solid day to figure out what was going to be coming up next for me after finishing this, however.
I also have to disclose that I actually sorta read a bit of the blurb here and confess that I put myself back at the bottom of the library hold list due to the story’s timeline running simultaneously with the L.A. Riots. A couple of months ago I just wasn’t in the right headspace to read a fictionalization that would serve as a reminder of how little times have changed. But then I read some real good stuff like Uncomfortable Conversations and my firm started posting more about inclusivity and diversity and this queued up the morning after a guilty verdict FINALLY was achieved in a blatant case of murder caught on tape so I put my big girl pants on and downloaded this.
And holy shit am I so glad I did. Not only can this author write her ass off, but the setting taking place so close and yet so far away from the uprising due to location as well as income level was just brilliant. If you know me you know I love a good coming of age story and young adult fiction that can be appreciated by us oldsters as well as the target demographic and this just checked every single box. This will easily go down as one of the best books I read in 2021. All the Starzzzzz.
"I can't tell if loneliness is being black, or being young, or being a girl, or if Lucia's right and I need new friends. I don't know."
This book feels almost like a love letter to Los Angeles, and an honest perspective of Black kids who are coming of age surrounded by white peers. I think this story can especially resonate with Black kids who can relate to the likes of Ashley Bennet or Lashawn Johnson. The (wealthy or poor- in Ashley's case, wealthy) Black kids attending predominately white schools. And this book touches on other subjects in addition to the riots like class, Black Wall Street, etc.
Here is the thing- I had major pro's and con's specifically with the writing. Especially with the first third or so, I really wasn't a fan, but at other moments some of the writing was beautifully or perfectly said .
This takes place during the LA 92' riots and mostly follows the timeline of those events from right before the verdict. But we often get kind of flashback moments from the main character, Ashley. And so there was something about the pacing that was off. And also there were several side/irrelevant characters who would get paragraphs worth of background and I found myself asking- why do we need to know about them? Can we get more on Ashley's experiences? Where exactly is this story going??? And some of these metaphors are kinda... odd (I put questions marks in a couple of places lol) Those were my thoughts for about the first third, but I felt it was going to get better and it did!
I think the plot started to come together and things started really happening past the half way mark/last third.
There were many sentences and exchanges that I was underlining and highlighting wanting to say a big YES. THAT. The descriptions of microaggressions (and sometimes straight out blatant racist remarks) by her friends- like when Ashley first 'realizes' she is Black or different from her peers when her friend makes a racial comment. Or how Jo would talk about what the riots meant to her or how Ashley describes her feelings of shame, guilt, etc. towards her distance with the other few Black kids at school, or how she let her friend's comments slide- those were GREAT.
This is also a book I can't help but wish white peers who ever have/had a 'Black friend' in their group or ever made racist remarks/microaggressions (unknowingly or knowingly) could read to be able to reflect on themselves.
Also, LaShawn is a new favorite. I think his character is great and has great moments and things to say and just-yeah, big fan over here! And Lana too- honestly, a lot of the side characters that played a big role in Ashley's story were all pretty great (minus her friends).
In the end, this is another story I am glad is being told, and I think many will enjoy. I had issues with the writing at times which held back how much I personally enjoyed this one, but it get's bonus points for the areas that were spot on and poignant. If the synopsis had your attention, give it a read :)
The anticipated read curse strikes again dear friends, and this time it took me a good way through the book to finally work out why it wasn't working for me. The Black Kids is undeniably an important, ground-breaking young adult novel set during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which echoed the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 to an uncanny degree, but I felt detached from the story.
The problem I had was with the main character herself. She's a quiet observer, stating the facts of what was happening around her with no real emotion. I found myself looking for the words, 'I felt', and never found them. She's not part of the 'Black Kids', merely observing them from afar and when the riots start to affect her own family, I didn't get the sense of loss and fear that I expected. Side note, I also found it strange it was stated early on that she was a cheerleader, and this was never mentioned again.
Some of the characters, like LaShawn and Lana shined, I always enjoyed the chapters they featured in and the story moved quicker. But Ashley's friends, Courtney, Kimberley and Heather fell flat. So flat in fact, that I couldn't picture them in my head. I remember Kimberley because of Ashley spending too much time with her boyfriend, and there was no closure between Ashley and Michael, but I can't tell you anything about the other two friends.
I think the story would have been better from LaShawn's perspective, he seemed to have actual thoughts and emotions, whereas Ashley seemed to repeat herself a lot, stating that she grew up with money so didn't feel part of her white friend's world or LaShawn, who grew up poor. This could have been an interesting concept, had it been explored deeper than that statement. Overall, a disappointing read.
Read for the Diversify Your Shelf Readathon - "Friend's Favourite Diverse"
The Black Kids is a journey to read. I really liked the idea of it, and I'm glad that I read it, but I struggled to connect with the main character, and a lot of the characters around her. I loved LaShawn, Jo, and Lana, and I wish they would have had more time instead of the characters who were the focus instead of Ashley and her awful friends. Like I said, though, it's a journey, and you have to see it through with the main character. She's very judgmental about things, especially weight and mental health, and it was hard to consistently be in her head at times.
This book is set in the 90s, but it often feels very similar to today. Although the characters were difficult to connect with, it was very easy to get invested in the story itself. This book covers important topics, and it's all woven together in an accessible way. Although I had some issues, I really liked reading this one. I would definitely try another book by Christina Hammonds Reed.
Thank you to the publisher for an advance copy via netgalley!
this book is a must read. Seeing life through the honest and Simple eyes of a teenager makes you realize how life isn’t easy for a lot of individuals, no matter their social class, due to their roots. It’s not an easy subject of discussion but something that should be spoken about, and loudly without taboo. this book enables you to briefly walk in the shoes of a person that experiences discrimination so much that it becomes just a normal part of her life. It’s not an easy experience. But worth the eye opening.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
The Black Kids is a timely and beautifully wrought coming-of-age tale exploring the prevalent and important issues of race, class, privilege, power and violence from the perspective of a teenager from an affluent African-American family and set against the backdrop of troubled '90s Los Angeles and one the most defining moments in Black American history. ”BEFORE: skipping school; tanning by the pool; picking out the perfect prom dress. AFTER: riots; fire; rumours. Sometimes learning who you ARE, means learning who you ARENT.” Told from the perspective of protagonist Ashley Bennett, we watch as with her once-perfect summer just beginning, in which she planned to hang out with friends from the white-dominated school she attends, the entire mood of LA residents and Americans, in general, changes dramatically. This sudden eruption of public fury was caused by the acquittal of the police officers who beat black man Rodney King to a pulp in March, 1991, despite there being video evidence of the incident taking place. It's really no surprise that riots, protests and a destructive mindset took over downtown LA as residents were disgusted by the glaring injustice.
This is an unflinching, compelling and memorable debut novel and one that does not shy away from addressing some really tough topics; I am delighted it was executed in such a readable fashion and there was not a single moment throughout where I was not fully engaged with the characters and their powerful stories. It highlights the increasing ubiquity of systemic racism, institutional racism is particularly relevant here, the us versus them mentality, which often abounds, and a rise in the number of incidences of police brutality and uses the past to hold a mirror up to the present. It couldn't have been published at a more poignant or relevant time given the latest exploits of the police in the George Floyd case, although you could argue that it's, sadly, relevant at all times. As a child of the 90s, many of the references that hark back to the time made me feel nostalgic, warm and fuzzy. A highly topical, gripping and poetic story I am sure will awaken a lot of young minds to the profound inequality faced by people of colour all around the world. Many thanks to Simon & Schuster Children's UK for an ARC.
Happy publication day to The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed! . It’s 1992 in Los Angeles, senior year, and for Ashley Bennett nothing was more important than spending her last few weeks in high school with her friends, going to the beach, drinking and smoking, going to prom, and getting into her dream college. Everything changes April 26th, when the police officers responsible for the brutal beating of Rodney King are acquitted. Violent protests break out throughout the city, LA is on fire, and suddenly Ashley is one of the Black kids. As she comes to terms with the denial of her parents, the activism of her sister, and the weight of her family’s history, she also finds her own voice and the power that comes with embracing who you are and choosing your own path. . This book does so many things at once. At its core it’s a story of intersectionality, how issues of race, class, and gender intertwine in the challenges faced by Black kids growing up in America. Ashley is not a perfect protagonist, but over the course of the book you watch her change, grow, and figure out who she is and what she wants her life to be, and you really can’t help rooting for her. I will obviously never truly understand what its like to be BIPOC in America, so I can only sympathize, but not empathize, with Ashley’s experience. Nonetheless, I think the author does an amazing job depicting the double consciousness that comes with growing up as a Black kid in white dominated spaces, having to simultaneously navigate being an individual, a human being with emotions and flaws, and being a symbol. This book reads as part diary, part biography, and part history lesson, with its own soundtrack of references to 90’s culture and music. It’s a story that is both timely and timeless, as we continue to fight for the value of Black lives. . “It’s like the riots pulled focus form one Los Angeles to the other, but it’s all part of the same photo, if you’re looking. Always has been. The palm trees and the pain, the triumph and the trauma—all of us, one big beating heart. The “real Los Angeles.” The “real America.” It’s like Uncle Ronnie said: it’s our history, in our blood, in our bones. “Ain’t no new starts,” he said.”
Ashley is a senior in high school grappling with college admissions and the fact that she feels like she's drifting apart from her best friends, whom she's known since she was a little kid. Then four police officers are acquitted in the brutal beating of Rodney King and the riots begin. As one of the few "black kids" at her school, she feels acutely affected by the violence unfolding around her. It forces her to take a step back and truly take in the world around her.
This was an amazing read. It offers an honest and moving examination of racism, friendship, and class. But it's also Ashley's story and how she's trying to find herself, just like any teen. Her parents have worked hard to shield her from the world, but there's only so much protection parents can provide. The way the book covers historic events through the prism of Ashley's eyes is really unique, and honestly, quite educational for me, as I was young when the riots hit and should have spent more time learning about them when I was older.
This is a beautiful story (the writing is gorgeous) and it covers such important topics. I was completely immersed in THE BLACK KIDS. 4.5 stars.
I had a hard time with this book-it took me forever to get through, despite being extremely excited to read it.
The Black Kids is about a teenager named Ashley, who is living in LA during the Rodney King trial and following riots. Ashley, and her group of friends, are navigating life in LA, finishing high school and hanging out, through all the turmoil. Life gets more complicated when Ashley unintentionally starts a rumour about one of her classmates.
I thought the premise of the book was so interesting-but I was surprised that it didn't exactly focus on the Rodney King riots, that was a side plot. The book focused on Ashley and her senior year, with her friends and family. Let me start by saying that almost everyone in this book, except perhaps Lucia, Lana, Harrison and LaShawn (and his friends) were so extremely unlikeable. Ashley's friends were shockingly horrible people. Ashley herself wasn't much better, she was selfish, never stood up for herself or others until the end and engaged in a lot of wrong behaviour. She forgave very easily and clearly didn't know who she was, which is fine, but hard to read. I was shocked at a lot of things that were said and done in this book and do think it is important to be aware that people still treat each other this way today.
I really enjoyed the end, despite skimming through most of the book. The highlight of the story was the relationship between Ashley and LaShawn. LaShawn was the best character by far, he was so real, so sincere and true to himself. There were other moments I enjoyed as well, I think the author successfully captured the experience of a black teenager living in LA during that time, there were a lot of horrible, shocking events that occurred which were extremely sad but necessary to know about. Ashley's parents had molded her to be this young woman who was unaware of what was around her, they wanted to protect her from things which is understandable, however this just made her accept things she shouldn't have. They were so judgemental, her sister Jo was all over the place and the rest of her family she wasn't that close to.
The writing felt extremely choppy to me, I felt like so much was mentioned that didn't need to be, it kind of jumped around from here to there without much connecting it. There were a couple of times I thought the story was over, but it kept going. It really wasn't what I thought it would be at all. I appreciate the author covering important and difficult subjects, race, sexuality, familial challenges, prejudice, etc., however, the book just didn't stick with me, it was hard to get through. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the free preview in exchange for an honest review!
July 01, 2020: This took me around a month to finish reading, not because it was slow but also because it was...slow. I mean, it's an important read and largely character-based which I'm slightly anti-biased towards so the pacing is super slow and that took some time for me to make actual progress through this. Anyway, this was great!
The Black Kids is a teen girl's story set in the 1990s during a period of community uproar demanding justice after the inhumane police brutality seen by Rodney King—a young Black man. Ashley, the main character, is grateful for the life her parents have worked to built for her: a safe neighborhood, a reputed high school, and a sheltered lens to view the world through. But the perspective gradually changes when not only does her city burn up in protest but also her own sister is too close to the fire.
Despite being a historical-fiction, the events and sentiments depicted in the book are well relevant even today. The evident racism and microaggression that becomes clear enough to acknowledge only when a deeply moving, and often saddening, incident happens is an unfortunate yet timely exploration. As the riots get heated, the dynamics of a Black teen with her white friends, her family, her rebellious but self-assured sister, and herself changes.
A definitive recommendation. This story can grow empathy towards the Black community who have been—and still are—facing hurtful, and highly destructive, prejudice for their skin color. It's educational and emotionally impacting; it's complexity is wildly accurate and a must for everyone to increase their understanding of past (and current) scenarios.
June 4, 2020: A historical fiction coming-of-age debut that focuses on race, class and violence through a wealthy Black teenager during the riots in 1992? I'm SO excited to read this. Received a digital copy through Netgalley!
A buddy read with @mhandie, this book has been in my library for months. It’s a book that examines family, race, politics, American structures and history, friendship, and teenage drama.
Ashley is a rich (and spoilt and entitled) black teenager who has basically been living in a bubble all her life. I did not like Asley. In fact, I did not like most of the characters in this book. I think my fave character is LeShawn.
Set in 90’s LA during the Rodney King Riots, I appreciated a lot of the themes explored by the author in this book. The first, of course, right from the title, is race. The MC ha a really complicated relationship with race, and I enjoyed her journey towards betterment in this book.
Her sister is another spoilt and entitled person who thinks a few acts of rebellion will make a difference in the grand scheme of things happening at the time. Her friends were terrible racist pricks and Ashley herself was really terrible to Kim.
The US justice system was also examined in this book, as well as profiling and police brutality. The way a black kid was also treated in Ashley’s school was troubling, and I loved how his mom stood up for him.
The audiobook narrator was great and I enjoyed her performance.
Family history is another aspect of this book I really appreciated.
I liked this book but I did not love it, as I was annoyed by many things. However, I would definitely recommend it.
Guys, THIS BOOK! Christina Hammonds Reed has written a poetic, evocative story that affected me more than any other book I read this year. And the narrator, actress Kiersey Clemons, is pitch perfect as Ashley Bennett, a wealthy Black girl in her final weeks at an exclusive high school in Los Angeles just as the officers who beat Rodney King are acquitted. This book is an excellent coming-of-age story, and should be in every classroom. Teacher friends, you will want to recommend this one to your students!
This book created a combination of sadness, anger, elation, and everything in between. I couldn’t put the book down😂. It makes me scornful, even as an African American female, it can definitely be hard to fit in, and sometimes we tend to take for granted the color of our skin. So I really recommend this book to people that need confidence and enthusiasm in their own skin.