Genre: YA – Historical/Contemporary
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
As the end of high school nears, Ashley and her friends spend more time away from school than in it. Though Ashley is all too aware of the differences between her and her white friends, of the need to ‘be better’, she doesn’t pay much attention until the murderers of Rodney King are acquitted, and the city she lives in becomes engulfed in riots.
The Black Kids is a coming-of-age tale, a story of a young woman trying to find her place in the world and work out who, exactly, she really is. Ashley is caught between two worlds. Because of her parent’s wealth, she’s part of the rich kids, but her skin colour and her family’s history mean she’ll always be different.
This book is going to get compared a lot to The Hate U Give, but these are two very different beasts. Starr and Ashley are very different characters. The books share similar themes, but Starr witnesses the death of her friend, while Ashley for most of the novel remains removed by the events happening around her.
That removal adds to the strength of the book, as she tries to work out her own emotions and feelings, tries to dig deep and understand why she feels how she feels. One way I really connected with Ashley is in how she processes her emotions. The writing is beautiful and lyrical, and at times it feels like she uses such words to mask herself and avoid confronting her own emotions.
The problem is, Ashley feels things very deeply. Her numbness is a way of her holding onto control, and it can at times make her seem like she doesn’t care, but throughout the book it’s clear she really does. She just has so much going on she doesn’t know where to start caring.
The settings are different in The Hate and The Black Kids, too. These two characters are from completely different worlds, and in each case Starr and Ashley have more in common with each other’s cousins than they do with themselves. Ashley lives in a ‘good’ (aka rich, majority white) neighbourhood in L.A. The tone is different, the attitudes, time period, etc. There’s more to separate these two than bind them, but both are amazingly fantastic books everyone should definitely check out.
In short, The Black Kids is a beautiful, lyrical coming-of-age tale, Ashley is a character lost, confused and struggling, her parents paying more attention to her wayward sister than her, and who is completely engaging. I can’t wait to see more from Christina Hammonds Reed.
You can find out more about the author here.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster UK for providing me a copy of this book via NetGalley.