Book Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Where, oh where do I start? Okay, I have things to say but can we be superficial for just a second so I can shriek about how spectacular this cover is? It basically screams Los Angeles in the 1990s and I love it so much.

Book Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
Book Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

This is hands-down one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s also the type of book where you sit down when you’re done, and you just kind of stare into space for a bit, feeling sad that it’s over but better for having read it.

The Black Kids is a beautiful and sometimes painful coming-of-age story that follows Ashley, one of only a small number of Black girls in her high school. Sheltered from racism and inequality as much as possible by her parents, she grows up mostly only knowing life in her upper class neighborhood and her high school where her white friends tell her she isn’t too “Blackity-Black”. She begins to see and understand the wide chasm between her life and the life of other Black families in L.A. during the 1992 riots that follow the acquittal of the four cops charged with the beating of Rodney King. The chapters show us Ashley’s changing views of the world, her growth, and her desire to understand her family’s background.

Not only was the prose in this story beautiful, it filled me with an incredible nostalgia. I was almost the same age as Ashley in 1992 and I recognized the pop culture references, the fashions, and – era aside – the feeling of having your whole life lying in front of you. I also really appreciated the fact that Ashley, as the protagonist, is not perfect; she makes mistakes as every human teenager does, she has regrets, she hurts and she hurts people, and she struggles with figuring out who she wants to be.

The story felt incredibly real to me, the characters were all three-dimensional people that you may have known yourself in the throes of high school, and the ending was a perfect balance between completing the story while still leaving me to wish there were 500 more pages so I could follow Ashley’s life even longer.

This is Christina Hammonds Reed’s debut novel but I’m sure this is not going to be her last one. I am an instant fan and can’t wait to read whatever else she writes.

This book hits shelves on August 4th; do yourself a favor and get your hands on it immediately. It is absolute magic and a wonderful book.

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