Review: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

I missed day 8 of NaNoPoblano because I spent most of the day on the couch reading this un-put-down-able gem.

Image and description from Goodreads.

In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.

I was really excited to read this book. When I marked it as read on Goodreads, I gave it a solid 4 stars. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it if you’re interested, but it wasn’t my favorite ever. There were just a few too many small issues that brought down an otherwise great read. Here’s the rundown.

What I Didn’t Like

  • My main gripe with this was the lack of focus on Emira’s inner world. Emira and Alix shared the spotlight as main characters, and the story was told from both points of view. With Alix, we got a lot of character development. We got to know her backstory (which was immediately relevant to the plot), a little about her family, and a lot of her inner thoughts during her interactions with Emira and other characters. Because of all that, I felt like I got to know Alix well. Emira, not so much. We didn’t get near as much of her backstory or any information about her family, and her inner voice didn’t really exist. Aside from one scene, where Emira calls her boyfriend after a bad day, her feelings were pretty hidden. There were a lot of moments where she was obviously trying to keep from reacting out loud, but typically the reader gets a bit of a glimpse of the inner reaction. There was not as much of that here, so I felt like I didn’t get to know Emira very well when I would have liked to.
  • There were also several major plot points in this novel that relied on miscommunication – and by miscommunication, I just mean characters not really talking to each other. I know that this is a thing that happens in real life, but it was a little frustrating to have multiple characters make dramatic decisions that hinged on simple misunderstandings.

What I Liked

  • The friendship dynamics in this book were great. I really enjoyed reading about Emira’s friends, and it was interesting to see that group of girls compared with Alix’s friends, many of whom she really didn’t even like. We did not really get into the details or history of how Emira’s group met like we did Alix’s, and because of that it took me a minute to figure out who was who in her group. But it really nice to see the different ways the women supported each other.
  • There were a few picky things I didn’t like about the conclusion, but I did enjoy seeing a women be happy in her choices. I feel like in a lot of novels about women there’s the “mom protagonist” or the “career woman protagonist” and few people who simply work to live. By the end, that’s the Emira was doing, and she was happy with that. It was a refreshing change from the all-or-nothing outlook we have about work in America.
  • I loved the relationship between Briar and Emira. It can be difficult to write young children well, I think; I certainly would not want to try it. But Briar was very much her own, believable character, and the way Emira interacted with her was really sweet.
  • This book served as a bit of a check on white woke liberalism without being too heavy-handed. Alix and the mystery character from the description both had their own brands of it. Both came in with genuinely good intentions, but failed to take Emira’s actual desires into account. When it turned out this was a pattern for both of them, Emira had to make a choice. I wish we had a bit more insight into Emira’s thoughts on the whole thing, but it was thought-provoking to be able to look at the situation both points of view.

Overall, I did not love this as much as I thought I would. But I will be watching to see what Reid writes next and would definitely read her work again.

NaNoPoblano 2020: 8/29

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