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 fa├žade 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.