The Black Kids is a coming-of-age novel set during the 1992 Los Angeles riots that remains ever relevant to today. Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for a free Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book.
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: September 1st 2020
‘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?’ – Goodreads
If there’s not justice for one of us, there’s no justice for any of us.
Our protagonist is Ashley, a Black high school student from a relatively financially well-off background. She begins the novel as unaware of the political events and protests happening around her. However we do see plenty of her white friends enacting micro-aggression’s and she tells us of more overt acts of racism that she and her family have experienced. As the novel progresses, we see Ashley become embroiled in the events surround her.
The officer was younger than my mother, with the same wispy blond goatee he must’ve had in high school. He looked like a bullied kid turned bully, the kind of kid who’d been too big, too poor, or too dumb and now more than happy to pull over anybody he deemed too anything. In our case, too black.
Although I’m not a huge reader of YA Fiction, The Black Kids was too intriguing to miss given the amount of excitement I’ve seen on social media about it. And it turns out the people on social media were right – this novel is so so good! Ashley makes for a compelling character and reading her journey throughout the novel was incredibly thought provoking. I found the personalities of her white friends to be uncomfortably accurate, having seen their behavior in those around me.
I also want to highlight this quote:
People glorify protest when white kids do it, when it’s chic, frustrated Parisian kids or British coal miners or suffragettes smashing windows and throwing firebombs at inequality.
This was something that I had not thought about before, and something that I myself am guilty of. I live in the heart of an area where the British coal miner strikes happened, and it’s true that these events are somewhat glorified by my community. ‘We were fighting for our rights,’ says an acquaintance old enough to remember the riots, and in the same breath they’ll say ‘I just don’t think Americans should be looting.’ We can’t be lifting one community up and bringing another down for the exact same actions and I will do more in the future to call out this behavior.
The Black Kids is a fantastic novel that I highly recommend to anyone and everyone. Above all it is infuriating that so little has changed in the forty years since the riots of 1992.
Also: There’s been a lot of discussion lately about OwnVoice readers not been approved for OwnVoice ARCs in favour of non-OwnVoice readers. This was not something I was aware of and so I just wanted to apologize for my ignorance in this. From now on, I will not be requesting such ARCs unless I am certain that OwnVoice reviewers are being prioritized. Of course, I will continue to read OwnVoice books that are already published.