Book Review

The Black Kids – Christina Hammond Reed

Today’s review is of The Black Kids by Christina Hammond Reed, a YA novel looking at the issue of race in 90s Los Angeles. Many thanks to Christina, and to Simon & Schuster, for providing me with a copy of this book which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

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?

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REVIEW:

I was a teenager in the 90s and although I remember the Rodney King case and the resulting riots, my life in rural England meant it was impossible for me to truly understand what it must have been like to live through this. Christina Hammonds Reed captures the emotions that Ashley and her friends and family must have felt watching their world blow up around them in a way that simply watching the news reports could never do. It must have been devastating to live through and it saddens me that almost twenty years later, little or nothing has really changed.

The Black Kids is a powerful book, and, coming from a safe, comfortable home environment, Ashley’s was a perspective that I haven’t encountered in any other book that I have read.

I will admit that I am woefully uninformed on many of the issues surrounding race, and I wanted to read this book as part of my efforts to educate myself. I still have a lot to learn but this book has opened my eyes more than perhaps I expected it to and I would recommend it to anyone else in my position.

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