I don’t read a lot of contemporary, so when I do I like it to be hard hitting. Hence why most of my contemporary is YA, those markets have so much potential when it comes to important issues. The Black Kids is a book about Ashley, a high school teenager in LA. She’s Black, and she’s in a predominantly white private school. Her parents have made their way in the world and they’re rich. The year is 1992, and the LA riots have started due to the murder of Rodney King by police (and unsurprisingly the perpetrators were acquitted). To avoid spoilers I won’t say anymore, but I’m sure you can guess the direction that this book goes in.
As soon as I found out it was set in ’92 I assumed there wouldn’t be any LGBTQIA+ representation. Thankfully I was wrong! This book is wonderfully diverse, with various LGBTQIA+ characters and it also has diverse rep in terms of race.
One thing I adored about how Christina Hammonds Reed crafted the story is that she was able to give us multiple different viewpoints on the riots and race in general just from one main character. Ashley has been friends with a group of white girls since she was little, and they’ve been dating white boys. However, as she moves around different circles of people as the book progresses we also get to see what she thinks when within lots of different groups with different races, monetary status and more. This skilful writing really makes this book what it is and is a key part to why I loved it so much.
Our protagonist is the victim of microaggressions as well as blatant racism. You probably could’ve guessed that already. But she isn’t perfect herself. She actually, throughout the course of the book, does various things that we the reader will judge her for. She doesn’t shy away from this, she doesn’t pretend like she’s perfect, and that makes her so much more relatable as a person. We all fuck up, we all make mistakes.
This book also taught me about a number of events in US history. One obvious one that isn’t a spoiler is the ’92 LA riots. As a white Brit who was born in 1996 I genuinely didn’t know as I read through this book whether the riot was fictional or real. I of course did research and discovered that this was a very real riot that occurred and that Rodney King was in fact murdered by police. I have also since done research on other events that happened both in the US and elsewhere that the book mentions. I don’t know why I had never learnt about these. Whether it’s because I’m white or because I’m British (I’m assuming a mix of the two), but I’m so so grateful to this book for bringing these to my attention.
I was able to read an advanced copy of this book thanks to NetGalley, I only picked this up because it was available through the “read now” section rather than requesting it. I won’t be requesting diverse books and will only read those available on my “read now” tab as I am white and I don’t want to take the opportunity to read a book away from an OV reviewer. I can always pick it up once it’s been published!
I ended up giving The Black Kids 4 stars out of 5. I think that if I had been from the US I would have rated this the full 5 stars, but I just didn’t have the cultural connection to the book (I’m British if you don’t know). As it is I can’t actually think of anything negative so it is just that spark that’s missing for me. I really really recommend picking this book up, it comes out on the 5th August and you should definitely get a delivery from your local bookshop!