Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots. 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?
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The time is the early 90s, but the events are ones repeated through history and have important reflections today. Protests and riots have broken out after the four officers who beat Rodney King on camera were acquitted, but this event was not alone. Ashley is trying to make sense of the world around her, her parents and their relationship with her sister who is standing up for more, and the way that she fits into it all. This novel is ultimately a coming-of-age story with important implications for today.
What I loved: Ashley's perspective is really interesting, and the book is quite reflective with a lot happening through her inner monologue. It is really thought-provoking and a deep read on several levels. Her observations and memories all build to something really powerful to read. Ashley feels so genuine and real, and her story is definitely worth the read.
Final verdict: Moving, emotional, and powerful, THE BLACK KIDS is a historical coming-of-age story with important implications for now. Highly recommend picking this one up.