I finished Kiley Reid’s debut novel, Such a Fun Age, about two weeks ago. It’s a quick read. It only took me a few days. It probably would have taken me just one if I were more into it.
Okay, so I was into it at first. It kind of lost its flair for me about two-thirds of the way through. I still finished it and I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking to pass some time during this COVID19 outbreak. Might as well read it.
So, before I launch into the particulars, I want to state that I think Reid is very talented but has room for growth. I’ll be in the same boat when my debut comes out. I admire her for where she’s at in her writing career, and can’t wait to get there myself.
There was some good and bad in this story, and I’ll try to evaluate both in my review.
Emira is an African American, twenty-five-year-old, part-time babysitter. She works for a well-to-do (okay, kinda rich) white family in Philadelphia. Alix, a mother of two, is a writer-of-sorts with some major insecurities. Mostly, she doesn’t want people to think she’s racist. Well, one day, Alix’s news-anchor husband says something racist on air and that night, their window gets busted. Alix calls Emira to get her toddler, Briar, out of the house. Emira takes her to a grocery store where a security guard harasses her because she’s black and it looks like she’s kidnapped a white child.
Cool premise, right? It’s kind of The Nanny Diaries but Annie is black. There’s even a “Harvard Hottie” (Emira’s love interest; Nanny Diaries reference) who gets the grocery scene on film. The story is what held my interest through the first 2/3 of the novel. It was well-crafted.
I didn’t like Emira, but I did relate to her in some ways. I appreciated that. She was kind of lost, which I guess is the point. She was trying to find herself; I just don’t feel like she ever did. Besides, she said “Ummm….” and “like” and “okay” too many times and I don’t feel like she ever really said anything substantial…except in this one scene with Harvard Hottie.
Actually, it felt like the story belonged more to Alix and Harvard Hottie. They had the deepest back stories and strongest emotional wounds. As self-involved and misguided as she was in her pursuit for wokeness, I guess I like Alix the most. She was the most well-rounded, semi-believable character…until she completely broke character at the end. They all went kind of extra at the end.
What I learned from Reid as a Writer
One thing I thought was fantastic was the way Reid embedded tension within relationships. I heard her talk about this on a podcast @ DIYMFA. What I liked the most was that you knew exactly who several characters were before they even set foot on stage. It’s that type of writing that gets readers hooked right away. So, as I get back to my own writing, I’ll be thinking about how I can continue to develop characters offscreen.
So, in conclusion, should you read Such A Fun Age? I think so, especially if you’re a writer. There’s a lot to be learned from it, and I’m always about supporting new writers, and of course, fellow sisters. I look forward to seeing what Reid does in the future.
What am I reading now? N.K. Jemisin’s newest novel, The City We Became. Review coming soon.