If there was ever a fiction book that needed to be read during a specific time in history, this is the book. “Such a Fun Age” is topical in ways I don’t think Kiley Reid could have ever predicted. At a time when white people feel it’s not only their duty but their right to call the police on black folks just trying to live their life, this book takes a look at the ripple effect these acts have on the people involved. What I appreciate most about this book is Reid’s desire to highlight a real world problem while also telling a compelling and funny story.
From Goodreads: Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right. But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
Oh the thoughts and emotions I had while reading this book! I feel like I could write a several page review if I wanted to but I will endeavor to keep this short and succinct. The realism of this story struck me right from the beginning; the incident in the grocery store for sure, but also Emira’s indecision over what she wants to do with her life and the fear of losing her health insurance. This is such an American problem that I found myself getting angry over the accuracy of this feeling. I remember aging out of my parent’s health insurance and thinking about what I would do in the case of an emergency or a large injury. It’s frightening and Reid does such a good job of conveying that fear to the readers. The fact that Emira is 25 and doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life is also very realistic. The dichotomy shown between her and her friend’s lives was so well done as was the dialogue between them. I wanted to be friends with Emira and her group which is a testament to how well-developed the side characters were. Even the people in Alix’s life felt well thought out and real, although I would not want to be friends with them!
While reading this book, and up until the very end, I thought about how hard it must be to write a story with no obvious bad guys. Every decision and action the characters make seemed to come from a good place, with no malicious intent, despite the outcome of those actions. And then BAM! One of the characters is revealed to be much worse than previously thought. This is the only reason this book wasn’t 5 stars for me. It would have been much more interesting if this character remained oblivious to how their actions impacted others and continued to think they were doing the right thing. That would have been more realistic to me and I think more realistic to what’s going on in the world. By making this character an actual villain, it took away from the ending. And I’m nit-picking here but one of the last scenes with Emira felt a bit too over the top in what was previously a very realistic novel and took away some of the impact of the ending.
I cannot recommend this book enough, despite some minor issues I had with it. Well-written, thought provoking, timely, with memorable characters and a message without being preachy, this book is a must read.
Favorite Quote: “I don’t need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like… happens.”
Author: Kiley Reid
Published: December 31st,2019
Rating: 4.5 Stars