The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Title: The Black Kids
Author: Christina Hammonds Reed
Published: Published August 4th 2020 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Los Angeles, 1992

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?
The Black Kids is a great coming of age story that really captures teenage life in the 90s. It’s impactful with its perspectives during the 1992 Rodney King trial.

This story revolves around Ashely and it’s really about her final months as a senior in high school. She’s just trying to make it through when the Rodney King trial and verdict comes down. She starts to take a different look at her life, at her friends and where she feels like she belongs. Her growth and understanding are really the center of the book. I loved Ashely because she felt like a real teenager to me. That some of her experiences, like the friends drifting apart and even the boy debacle reminded me of High School. Her mistakes don’t make her.

There are so many things in this story that reminded me of high school. There are things that happen like cheating, which I know some people do not like that in books. I know that’s a part of life, it happened to me in High School. Should it happen, of course not. Lots of things shouldn’t happen but I would hope that would not steer you from the book because that’s not the most important message here.

I really liked how there are so many different perspectives. We have Ashely who attends a predominantly white private school and her friends are also all white. There are other black students. Her sister Jo is older and believes in fighting for your rights. She also mentions communism a lot. There is Ashley’s Uncle and Cousin who live in her father’s old neighborhood. Trying to protect their family store from rioters. LaShawn is a scholarship student and star athlete. We get to see what the 1992 LA riots mean to each of this characters and I think it’s so good to read about.

The book is well written and interesting. This is one to pick up.

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

Title: Court of Lions
Author: Somaiya Daud
Published: August 4, 2020
Publisher: Flatiron Books

Court of Lions is the long-awaited second and final installment in the “smart, sexy, and devilishly clever” Mirage series by Somaiya Daud (Renée Ahdieh, New York Times bestselling author of The Beautiful)!

On a planet on the brink of revolution, Amani has been forced into isolation. She’s been torn from the boy she loves and has given up contact with her fellow rebels to protect her family. In taking risks for the rebel cause, Amani may have lost Maram’s trust forever. But the princess is more complex than she seems, and now Amani is once more at her capricious nature. One wrong move could see her executed for high treason.

On the eve of Maram’s marriage to Idris comes an unexpected proposal: in exchange for taking her place in the festivities, Maram will keep Amani’s rebel associations a secret. Alone and desperate, Amani is thrust into the center of the court, navigating the dangerous factions on the princess's behalf. But the court is not what she expects. As a risky plan grows in her mind, and with the rebels poised to make their stand, Amani begins to believe her world might have a future. But every choice she makes comes with a cost. Can Amani risk the ones she loves the most for a war she's not sure she can win?
This is a perfect finish to the Mirage duology. This is one of those series that I hope more people pick up and appreciate.

I love how when I’m reading about this world sometimes I feel like it’s a Fantasy and then they get into a spaceship and I’m like oh ya the Sci-Fi aspect. The two genres are so well merged that it delights me.

The story is filled with politics. After all it is a story of Maram trying to take the throne and Amani trying to save her people. I absolutely love the writing style, I think it really made this part of the story more interesting. I was fascinated by the alliances being made and the courts being navigated. I was really impressed by the different things characters said and how they operated.

As far as characters are concerned. We really see Maram and Amani bloom in their own ways. They give one another strength, even when they are at odds.

Amani character development was so great to read. Remembering her from Mirage to who she has become is just amazing. She’s drawn from her experience of being Maram’s double. As herself she had seen first hand the destruction the Vath can cause. When she pretends to be Maram she sees how the politics of the Vath work. She becomes this well rounded formidable woman who finds strength in her love for people. She has some really great lines in the story that had me riveted.

Maram also develops in the story and we actually get to hear from her POV. I really liked the character that is introduced into her life and how that has some impact on her. Also despite her anger with Amani, she also has the seed of what love of a sister can be like sprouting in her. Amani shows her another way things can be and Maram finds that strength that Amani always knew was there.

The romance is sweet but again the two badass ladies are the main focus of the story. There are also other characters we are introduced to and more culture that I loved learning about. The descriptions of the celebrations, food and clothes made me wish I could visit their world.

If you enjoyed Mirage this is the perfect way to end the duology. The characters work hard and make sacrifices and find their ending.