A story about race, prejudice, and privilege. Living in a “woke” age, we all believe we know the right and wrong way to act in society. But how different can each person’s perspective really be?
Such a Fun Age is Kiley Reid’s first novel which became an international bestseller, was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize and generally, received incredibly positive reviews from critics.
The story follows Emira who experiences racial injustice in a supermarket shop. Emira is a 25-year-old who is trying to find her career path. In the meantime, she is working two jobs: one is a typing job and the other is as a babysitter. One night, she is asked to babysit urgently and leaves a party to do so. To kill some time, she takes Briar (the child) to a supermarket. The security guard then confronts Emira and practically accuses her of kidnapping purely based on race and the way she is dressed.
The novel follows two perspectives: Emira’s and Alix’s. Alix is Briar's mother and she is a privileged lady who is facing her own life challenges in how she presents herself to the world. Another crucial character is Kelley. Kelley recorded the incident in the supermarket and then becomes Emira’s love interest.
Going into this book blindly, I was worried from the initial couple of chapters that it was going to be a very heavy topic but to my surprise, it was handled in a light-hearted but realistic way. Rather than exploring racism experienced within the law, the book explored how people who care can be unknowingly racist.
Kelley, for example, seems to only surround himself with people of colour and has a major problem with white privilege. However, his lifestyle is actually very privileged, and surrounds himself with luxury because of his success. Alix on the other hand is desperate to prove that she has a lot in common with Emira in such a way that she unknowingly behaves in racist manners. All the while, Emira is just your average adult trying to figure out her place in the world.
One of my favourite things about the novel was that Emira is in her mid-twenties and is trying to figure her life out. There aren’t that many stories like that out there at the moment and that felt incredibly representative of my generation.
The style of writing was fantastic in my opinion. It was easy to read and the interaction between characters was incredibly easy to visualise. They felt like real people, not just fictional characters, which again is crucial for the message of this book.
The only thing I didn’t really like, but it’s a big thing, is that it wasn’t an engaging story. I wasn’t compelled to read on. It was interesting to find out how certain situations play out, but there weren’t any major events that made you want to find out what happened. The characters were so well portrayed that your initial judgment of them is right. There isn’t really any character growth either. There is a nice summary at the end though so there are no cliffhangers.
It’s worth reading as it’s a short book and it is very relevant for this day and age. Each character is interesting in their own way and it draws light to our own thoughts. It’s just not a book I would likely read again.
My rating - 6.5/10