Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The Black Kids comes out in 4th August 2020!

I always like to start by giving the synopsis before I head into my review, as someone who’s been doing this for a minute summarising stories is a skill I am yet to master!

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?

First of all, after finishing this book I found out that it was a debut novel?!!?!? I think it’s definitely one of the strongest debut novels I’ve ever read. This book follows the story of Ashley Bennett who comes from a wealthy family and has lived for the most part a sheltered life. Her parents worked extremely hard to provide this life for her but also believed that their children should not have to face the same struggles they did. As much as Ashley had been curious about her parents history and their story her parents have gone out of their way to avoid the topic in the hopes that they can keep their daughter in her protective bubble for as long as possible. But the sad reality is Black children, teenagers no matter how wealthy they are, what neighbourhood they live in, are forced to mature way earlier than anyone should. The author did an amazing job of showing this to the reader rather than just telling them, through Ashley Bennetts experiences and through other characters in the story.

The harrowing thing is that whilst reading this you realise just how cyclical the fight for injustice is. Although this story is set in 1992 following the brutal beating of Rodney King by the police and LA riots, it could not be more relevant to the current climate. It really makes the reader reflect on why in GODS green earth we still have to fight for BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS and why black people are still facing the same injustices they were facing 10, 20 , 30 , 400 years ago?

Before I get toooooo carried away I will try to keep this a book review rather than delve into this topic since this is what you came for! One thing that I really REALLY loved about this book is that there were no ‘side’ characters. I don’t know whether this is just me but I am so sick of books that have two main characters they solely focus on and then introduce a string of stand in side characters that are a) PLAIN… SO PLAIN b) are not developed c) literally have no impact on the story or the plot. In this book literally every character is given their due development, you learn about all of her friends stories’ all of their fears and weaknesses, even the neighbours are given more description than most side characters in other books. AND THIS IS WHAT MAKES THEM AND THE WHOLE STORY MORE RELATABLE.

I highly recommend this to pretty much anyone. I feel like it’s a book that really developed and focused on its characters which was the reason I was so immersed from beginning to end!

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