I'd been wanting to read THE BLACK KIDS ever since I heard about it in some listicle about new YA releases. It's set in the early 90s against the backdrop of the Rodney King riots and our heroine is an upper class African American teenager who doesn't really feel connected to her Black heritage at all-- until other people kind of force her to confront it by boxing her into stereotype after stereotype.
There was just so much to love about this book. Obviously the 90s fashions and cultural references were near and dear to my heart, but Hammonds Reed also does such a great job talking about things like intersectionality, cultural identity, taking a stand, dealing with toxic friendships, owning up to your own mistakes, and growing up. It's a coming of age story as well as a snapshot of history that is, sadly, still very much relevant today. You can't really shrug and say, "Well, at least things are better now" because when it comes to the treatment of people of color, our society is still dealing very much with infrastructural racism on a pretty large scale.
Ashley is such a great heroine. I loved how she was spoiled and difficult and made bad choices without the author making her out to be a bad person. She was just a flawed teenager with a ton of stuff on her plate, which is honestly one of my favorite kinds of heroines. I also loved how she starts out kind of timid and passive and ends up totally changing. The character development was fantastic and by the time you get to the end, you really feel how much she's grown as a person without being told. I also loved her family, her family history, and her new set of friends once she ditches the toxic ones.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed THE HATE U GIVE. I'm honestly shocked it isn't as popular because I think it's almost as good and would make a fantastic movie with an amazing soundtrack, too.
4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars