Hi, everyone. Welcome back to my channel.
It is Ahtiya here at BookinItWithAhtiya.
Today is a very special video. I am very excited for this video.
I am going to be giving my review of The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
in partnership with Hear Our Voices Book Tours and Simon and Schuster.
Also, huge shoutout to NetGalley, who actually provided me the eARC of this book.
This video is going to be split into five parts.
The first part is going to be the synopsis.
The second part is going to be what I liked.
The third part is what could’ve been better.
The fourth part is my #OwnVoices Reflection.
And the fifth, and final, part are my final thoughts.
So, let’s jump right in…
So, The Black Kids is an Historical Fiction Young Adult
that takes place in 1992 with the backdrop of the Rodney King riots and protests.
We have our main character Ashley.
She is a Black girl from a wealthy family who attends a predominantly White high school.
She has a group of friends, and everything is going okay, it seems…
…until the riots and the protests start
and Ashley has to figure out what it means for us and what it means for them
And where does she fit in that category.
She gets entangled in a rumor concerning one of the other Black kids in school that can threaten his future.
And it’s her journey dealing with that, it’s her journey dealing with her thoughts the protests and the riots,
developing her own political opinion, while also navigating a really tough relationship at home between her parents and her older sister Jo.
What I really loved about this novel in particular
Is that the writing is so easy to get sucked into
It’s very accessible language while also having quite a few moments of profound and poetic language.
It tugs at your heartstrings.
It makes it so easy to start and continue reading and not want to put the book down.
Ashley is such a complex character.
She’s messy, she’s flawed, she’s not perfect.
And I appreciate the fact that the author did not try to make her perfect.
I also appreciated that there’s quite a bit of a journey for Ashley.
And even at the end of the book — it’s a well-paced journey, but even at the end of the book
you can tell that her journey isn’t done.
I thought that was so realistic and so true to life, especially for a senior in high school
Your journey, you self-discovery, your character development is far from over at that point.
This book also deals with the idea of outgrowing friendships and making new friendships.
But specifically on the topic of outgrowing friendships…
Ashley has been part of the same friend group with the same friends since she was a little girl, about six or seven years old
And she’s stuck with them,
even as they outgrow each other, have different taste
have different interests…because they’re comfortable.
There’s a certain comfort for that.
One of the big parts of this novel
is Ashley re-evaluating her friendships with each of her best friends
And really trying to think: “Are these friendships worth saving? Are these friendships that will last past high school into when I’m an adult?”
The novel also deals with the complexities of female relationships, specifically mother-daughter.
We see al lot of that in Ashley’s mother and her sister Jo.
There’s a very tense, very complex, intricate, nuanced relationship
that’s just very hard to witness sometimes.
You’re from the perspective of Ashley, and she’s witnessing her mother and her sister
not get along, after so many years of not getting along
to the point where she doesn’t know if they’ll be able to reconcile.
There’s also the female friendships between Ashley and her friends that I just spoke about.
But also, she begins to develop new female friendships
And figure out what that looks like in contrast to her old friendships but also in terms of her new friendships.
And then, as well, as the relationship between sister and sister.
One of my favorite parts of this novel was definitely the relationship between Ash and Jo.
You can tell that they have such a concrete, solid relationship from the beginning of the book.
Ashley has tried so hard to appease both her sister and her parents.
Her sister has always been at odds, I want to say, with her parents.
Her parents don’t really understand Jo, and it’s a very difficult relationship.
So, in light of that, Ashley has always tried to pick up the slack. She’s always tried to be the perfect sister.
Trying to keep her relationship with her sister Jo,
but also keep her relationship with her parents
because they’re so worried about her older sister.
And that puts a lot of pressure on Ashley,
even when she might want to step outside of those boundaries into the realm of where her sister is.
And you see, in the course of this novel,
Ashley go from pleading with her sister to just get over it and appease their parents
to understanding her sister in a way she didn’t previously in the book and previously in their history.
You see Ashley understand why her sister is so passionate…
why her sister has moments of stepping back from everything and wanting to be by herself.
And there’s definitely themes of Black girlhood.
As well as mental health.
I would say it’s touched on slightly in this book,
especially mental health in the Black community.
This book takes place in the early ’90s.
We’re still not really talking about mental health the way we should be.
But especially because this book takes place in the 90s.
I think it does a great job in being realistic in its discussion of mental health
and skirting around it in a way that feels authentic
while also addressing the fact that mental health disparities and declining mental healthy
in the face of trauma, and injustice, and generational trauma — that’s also present in this book– is a thing
And it’s prevalent and it’s important, and that’s another layer of the book that really helps you understand the character of Jo.
I think out of all the characters in the book, Jo is definitely my favorite.
She represents so much in terms of being misunderstood, being passionate,
giving everything she has to a cause
because that’s all she feels that she can do in that moment.
The book definitely feels cyclical, like it’s part of a larger picture, and it’s part of this continuous timeline.
The author does such an amazing job really painting L.A.
and the backstory and what was happening during this time
and the emotional tensions and the emotional drama that was happening
What I really appreciated about this book is the fact that the first quarter of the novel
you don’t even get much of the protests
The first quarter of the novel — the trial is going on, it’s Pre-Protest, I guess you can say.
And so the author takes that time to introduce us to Ashley.
And she takes the time to introduce us to her different relationships and get us acquainted with this world and this life,
Instead of pushing us right into the height of the riots and protests.
We see the community gearing up towards the riots and the protests because we see Ashley doing that as well.
What I also really enjoyed about this novel is the use of flashbacks.
I think the flashbacks in this book were done exceptionally well.
And what I really enjoyed is that they are woven into the story.
It’s not a…”this is a flashback, so it’s going to be in italics”
It’s not a chapter that’s like “Flashback.”
It’s small flashbacks and they’re sprinkled all throughout the novel
perfectly placed in present moments
to give us a little backstory about how Ashley got a moment she got to.
And I really enjoyed it, and it’s so seamless.
And the flashbacks read like real life.
They read like Ashley was having a memory of something
because of what was happening right then in that moment.
And I think that was — yes — I think that was exceptionally done.
Where It Fell Short…
So, for me, I only had one critique, honestly.
Ashley has some sort of romantic relationship with one of the characters in the book
and at the end, I felt like that relationship was unresolved.
I would have liked some kind of conclusion. Not necessarily have it be wrapped up in a bow
and everyone skips off into the sunset.
But I was left wondering…what did she learn from this?
What happened? What’s the outcome?
I think everything else was resolved so well,
Even if it wasn’t a happy ending, even if not all my questions were answered
I felt some sort of resolution with it, which I appreciated.
But it was that one romantic relationship–
And I don’t want to give too much away because I want you to read the book
And when you read the book, you’ll know exactly which romantic relationship I’m talking about…
Yes, I said ‘which.’
But that was the only one where I was like, Imma need more from this.
In terms of me reflecting…
There were so many moments during this book where I was like…
*slowed down, deeper pitch*
Ashley, girl, what are you doing?
So, I really related with Ashley having this feeling of stumbling through life
and not knowing what she was doing, where she was going,
having goals but not necessarily knowing how to get there,
Was incredibly relatable, I mean…WOW.
I also related to Ashley feeling like she didn’t necessarily fit in with the Black kids
but also being supremely aware of her Blackness with the non-Black kids.
And just living in that middle space of not feeling like an “us” in any way.
She didn’t feel like she was part of an “us” with her group of White friends.
She didn’t feel like she was an “us” with the Black kids at the school.
And so she’s kind of just there…
And that also ties back into her friendships, and the idea of outgrowing friendships, expanding friendships, creating new friendships as well.
And this is going to relate to so many people who are part of a marginalized community.
Ashley was just trying to survive as a Black person in a predominantly White environment.
And it’s a messy process. She makes mistakes.
She does try and own up to those mistakes; it’s not always easy, it’s not always pretty
but she’s trying, and that’s saying something, honestly.
What I really appreciate the fact that she doesn’t start out as a perfect character, she doesn’t start out as this high-achieving, must be good at everything character…
She is allowed to exist.
And I really loved that.
And I really appreciate the fact that there wasn’t this focus on her being exceptional.
She was surviving and existing, and, for the novel, that was enough.
I gave this book 4.5/5 stars.
I highly recommend it.
I am so excited for when it releases. It comes out on August 4th.
I have already pre-ordered it. I am so excited for my final copy to arrive so I can go back through and annotate it.
I’m really looking forward to having this book in my collection.
I think everyone should read it. It’s so timely, it’s so important, it’s profound.
But also…not on a high horse.
I absolutely loved it.
Thank you so much for watching.
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Comment down below: Have you heard anything about The Black Kids? Do you plan on reading it, purchasing it, borrowing it from your library, listening to it as an audiobook?
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