by Kiley Reid
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Group)
Book Release Date: December 31, 2019
My Review: ★★★★
|A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.|
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown-up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.
So here’s the thing: if I had read this book going in completely blind, as in, if I hadn’t read the book description before I started reading it, I’d have probably given it 4 stars. But, I did read the description before I read the book, which is pretty usual and nothing out of the ordinary. Therefore, I expected it to focus on certain things that were really very minor throughout the majority of the book, which was a bit disappointing.
That being said, I believe this was an interesting read with some interesting characters. It was undoubtedly entertaining and certainly a good book for book club discussion.
I was a little surprised by the ending. It went in a different way than I would have anticipated it going, but that’s not to say I didn’t like how it ended because I did. In fact, I think the way it ended was probably the most ideal situation it could have gone when you really look at the other characters and the type of people they all were.
Alix… I couldn’t really figure her out. I did sympathize with her a lot throughout the book, and I wanted to like her, but she made it very difficult to like her, increasingly more so the further along I got into the book.
Kelly… I thought he was creepy all the way through. And there was one part where he started overstepping his role that made him really unlikeable to me. However, the way Emira dealt with it as it was happening, I was pretty happy about.
Emira is the main character of the story. She’s a 20-something black college student who is about to age out of her parents’ medical insurance coverage. She struggled with some pretty age-appropriate things, I thought, being still so young and not knowing what she really wanted to do with her life, but being old enough that life expects you to know something like this. I’ve been there, and I really sympathized with her on this front. In this aspect, how appropriate is the title? It should be a fun age, but perhaps responsibility makes her miss out on a lot of what her friends and peers are doing while she’s trying to make ends meet.
Then there was the “incident” at the grocery store with the white kids she was babysitting where she was stopped by a security officer and accused of kidnapping. To me, this could have been a big deal, but she just shook it off like it was just another Tuesday, and initially I thought, why didn’t the author play that up more? That was a huge missed opportunity. Then after some thought and discussion, perhaps it was appropriate that it was so downplayed. Maybe this was more telling of the racial undertones and how I would view it differently through my white privilege lens than someone of color.
At any rate, I do think this is worth a read. There were some parts that were a little cringey, but they were few and far between, and none of them lasted very long. I was still left with some questions about certain pieces of Alix and Kelly’s past, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much if I never figure that out.
Have you read this book?
If so, what did you think?