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Such a Fun Age is a 2019 novel by Kiley Reid. It is her debut novel and was published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons on December 31, 2019. It tells the story of a young black woman who is wrongly accused of kidnapping while babysitting a white child, and the events that follow the incident. / A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.Wikipedia.com/ Amazon.com
Keeping with my past reviews, let’s do the T first.
Why THIS Book?
I read this book because it was a birthday gift and I wanted to be able to thank the gal who gave it to me at the next book club meeting. Thanks Terry! I had found it on a list of “books by BIPOC women you should read” or something similarly named. I’m very glad I got the chance to read it.
Full disclosure here. I really liked this book… eventhe characters who bothered me.
The name character, a Black woman named Emira is well written, believable, fully formed, and the kind of person I would like to know. But… I found it hard to fully “get” her because she reacted rather than acted up until the very very end. Like, it is okay to not have a grand plan for your life at age 25. It is okay to be a go-with-the-flow sort of personality. However, we typically don’t have that sort of personalty as our main protagonist.
But fine. I accept that this character was like that.
Her foil… an extreme in the opposite direction is Alix who ACTS all the time. And yes, I am using the word “act” to mean “take action” and “pretend.” Alix is a wonderfully written character who I, for one, started off liking and then slowly but with gathering speed became not just the antagonist but a downright evil character… made worse by her own personal justification of her actions and the support of her friends. Alix would be horrified, HORRIFIED, to think that we think that she isn’t a “good person” but when it gets down to it… she is not a good person.
And Emira is a good person despite being a pawn for most of the book. Of course, we get flashes of her ability to take care of herself, but they are only flashes and seem to show up when her guard is either down or her other options have been taken away. Emira spends a lot of time in the book with her head down just trying to get along… she is the “go along to get along” sort. The fact that she is Black makes this character choice by Reid a double whammy. We want Emira to be more assertive and for Alix to shut the heck up but we also understand why the two exist the way they do in our racist world.The message and lessons Reid is teaching us are not “bonk bonk” on the head…. But they are there and actually, I would argue, a bit more powerful through her subtlety.
The world that Alex and Emira live in is our world, but pre 2020 and still mired in racism, “woke” white dudes, and white feminists. It is a world that is true and authentic. And if this book is giving you Celeste Ng/s Little Fires Everywhere vibes, that makes sense and should be a complement to Reid’s ability to tackle some of the same fraught storylines about class, race, domestic service, and the line between employee and “family.” (Shameless plug: We did Little Fires Everywhere on my podcast and I had a LOT of thoughts.)
The style of this book is very “beach read.” It is fast. It isn’t deep literary. It’s a Long Island Iced Tea… it goes down smooth and you are all giddy and enjoying yourself and then WHAM you realize that you have been accidentally complicit in racist crap by rooting for Alix and the world is much bigger and more complex… all is not how it has been portrayed and the last quarter of your drink was straight whiskey.
One thing I have to say… as a white lady who is trying to wake up* I stumbled during some of the scenes between the Black women in the novel. I found myself thinking “Is this an accurate depiction? Is that really the slang?” But you know what? It’s ok that I didn’t really vibe in those scenes. It’s ok that I don’t understand the slang or know who half of the musical acts refenced were. Because I’m not Black. Those scenes weren’t FOR me. And that’s ok,more than ok. That’s good. Not every book has to be everything to everyone and books about racism should be for a wider audience.
The scenes FOR me were the Alix scenes and boy did they resonate. I’m not an Alix. I don’t have a thriving career of letter writing and millions of Instagram followers. (but hey if you want to follow me I am @kaylia_marie_m) and I am not hecka rich and obsessing over a measly 8 pounds over pre-baby weight. (8 pounds? Girl, shut all the hell up,)
So, no.. I’m not Alix. But I have been guilty of white savior complex and not knowing how to traverse racist issues. I have used words and had thoughts in my past that make me hard core cringe today. Alix is uncomfy. But… I think that is the point. A lot of us white women are Alix in one way or another.
Ok. One more little quibble. It would have been infinitely more powerful if Alix’s actual evil stroke had been left off of the end of the book. As it is… we get to sit back and rest knowing that we might be a little Alix, but we aren’t THAT bad… I mean… we would never do THAT…. And that lets us (white lady readers) off the hook a little bit.
Regardless. The book kept right on trucking and if there was small lag toward the end, the ending itself made up for it. I didn’t notice any major plot holes… but then again I have no first hand knowledge of Pennsylvania and no idea how coincidental the coincidences were.
The story was compelling. I wasn’t sure how it was going to end and then it ended in the best way possible and I was delighted.
(Also shout out to Reid for writing one of the cutest kids in all of literature with three year old Briar.)
I really enjoyed this book. One night I opted to read it instead of watching The Expanse. That tells you something.
I recommend this book. Highly. A perfect book club book.
* I am not woke., The process isn’t done. Anyone who tells you they are “woke” is operating from a place full of hubris.
Reminder of the ASPECT method.
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This: Why did I read *This* book?