Today, I’m super excited to review what I think will be a stand-out book of the summer: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed. I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this incredible book via Netgalley, so thanks so much to Simon & Schuster for granting my request.
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?
TW: attempted suicide, graphic police brutality, racism, sexual harassment, animal cruelty, abuse
Reading The Black Kids is akin to watching a fire burn, with its precisely placed kindling building up an explosive picture of racism, classism and family issues. It will smoulder on in your mind long after finishing this timely, impactful and brilliant book.
I must admit going into this book that I knew little about the Rodney King case or protests, but all that changed. I loved how the case started off in the background of Ashley’s story and it was an omnipresent force that ensured that you were aware of the wider picture throughout and drew parallels to the casual racism of Ashley’s so-called ‘friends’.Hammonds doesn’t hesitate to showcase various forms of racism from the overt to the more insidious subtle micoraggressions. It makes for an incredibly powerful read but also never strays too far from Ashley. This is fundamentally her story. I love a character-driven story and this one is very focused around Ashley, while also delving into family, friendship, racism and police brutality.
The writing style completely reflects this, with an almost stream of consciousness style to it that really allowed me to connect with Ashley. However, I am extremely aware that as a white reviewer, I will never truly understand Ashley and instead I will point you towards some Own Voices reviewers.
Hammonds is unflinching and honest in her discussion of class, privilege and race, particularly in the way that they intersect and serve to shield those in power. The tone of the book shifts as the riots become more prominent in Ashley’s life, revealing some heart-wrenching facts about her family that really hit home with me. I am a big contemporary lover and this is definitely one of the best I’ve ever read. The Black Kids is a fantastic book that I am still thinking about and I’m sure that it will be a stand-out book of the summer and far beyond.
I will continue to speak up about current events now and forever and to help, here are links to Carrds talking about many of the world’s current events and how you can help. Also, I’ve linked here the Black Lives Matter Carrd to support, but also here is a list of resources to aid Anti-Racism work in the UK, as well as UK specific places to donate to. I will be doing this on every post. If you have the funds to donate, please do but if not, please support and uplift Black voices and sign the petitions.