*I found it really hard to make this review spoiler free, so I'm just going to say proceed with caution*
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Published: December 31, 2019 by: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Rating: 5/5 stars
CW: anti-Black racism on both the micro and macro level, including racial profiling and racial slurs.
Emira is a twenty-five year old Black woman, who is a babysitter for a wealthy white family. She is struggling to make ends meet and also with what she wants to do with her life. One night, she is profiled at a grocery store while with the little girl she cares for, Briar. The cops are called, and Emira is accused of kidnapping. Alix Chamberlin, Briar's mother, is devastated by the situation and vows to make things right. However, Emira is weary of Alix's overbearing will to help, and things get even more complicated when someone appears in Emira's life who got the whole incident on tape.
The fact that this is a debut novel is such a testament to Kiley Reid's talent. She has such an incredible way with words that builds up an immersive world, provides specific detail to capture topics and themes, and makes you not want to put the book down. I flew through this book, and it easily became one of my favourite books of 2020.
The characters were so well thought out. Emira was strong-willed and also had an amazing relationship with Briar that was well-developed throughout the novel. I got a great sense of how Emira really cared for Briar despite her weary feelings towards Alix, and how Emira tried to protect this relationship no matter what. It was interesting to see this relationship develop over time as things begin to escalate.
Alix was a fascinating character. She immediately takes up defense for Emira after the incident, however we quickly see that her motives do not seem genuine, and her development was something that I both suspected, but also was shocked by. I think Reid did a fantastic job at foreshadowing some events to come, but also shocking the reader so that we are still kept engaged.
This book touches on a number of topics, including being a white saviour, what makes up a family, and what it means to let go. The topic of being a white saviour was something that I found particularly important, especially considering most popular stories about racism from times past, such as "The Help," are now rightfully being critiqued for how they portray Black women vs. white women. I think this book alludes to "The Help," and brings a spotlight to these white saviour novels and why they are problematic.
The topic of family was also something that resonated with me. It was interesting to see Alix's relationship with her family change over time, as well as Emira's relationship with Alix, and with Briar. Alix kept saying to Emira that she was a part of their family, but it didn't always seem that way. Eventually, Emira has to make a number of important choices that determine where she will end up and who she wants to accept as her family. These choices add to the overall importance of the message.
The ending was one of the best endings to a novel that I have ever read. Again, it was something that both shocked me, but that I was also not surprised by. I think the book ends on a semi-bleak note, which I appreciated, because it shows that dismantling racism is a continuing struggle. I think the ending fit the story so well and I couldn't have imagined it any other way.
Overall, you have to read this book, especially if you have found yourself taken by novels such as "The Help" in the past. I think books like these should be the ones we turn to in order to really get a sense of what it means to be Black in America, and how this experience can often show history repeating itself.
Have you read Such a Fun Age? What did you think?
Emily @ Paperback Princess