A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that in The Black Kids, by Christina Hammonds Reed, the Rodney King riots and the melodrama of prom combine to bring to a head the contradictions in the life of Ashley, a Black high school senior from a well-to-do family who attends an exclusive, predominantly White private school. The setting, in the wake of the not-guilty verdict for the police officers who beat Rodney King, and backstory about the Tulsa "Black Wall Street" killings bring many scenes of violence, some graphic. These include a Korean boy shot in the chest, mass shootings by law enforcement during the Tulsa incident, lynchings in the Jim Crow South, and beating by both police and civilians. One character nurses an injury suffered during looting of his store. There are also scenes of violence between high school teens, including one boy punching another out and a physical altercation between girls owing to rivalry over a boy. There's a prominent subplot about the loss of virginity, several scenes of romantic kissing, and references to "hookups" between teen couples as well as adult couples. Two girls have a brief conversation about the possibility that one is bisexual. There's a passage about jealousy between one character's parents, with the suggestion the father is having an "emotional affair" with a family friend. Teens smoke cigarettes, drink wine coolers, smoke pot, and take ecstasy casually, with few negative consequences. A teen is arrested for possession of cocaine. Strong language includes "s--t," " f--k," "damn," the "N" word, "nigga," "twat," and "asshole."
- Parents say
- Kids say
There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
What's the story?
When THE BLACK KIDS begins, Ashley, a high school senior in Los Angeles is gearing up for prom against the backdrop of widespread civic unrest in the wake of the acquittal of police officers captured on video severely beating Rodney King, a Black man. Ashley lives in a bubble that this particular crisis can't help but pierce: She's the daughter of well-to-do Black professionals. She's attended a predominately White private school for most her life; most of her friends are White, and many of the people of color come from multicultural backgrounds that distance them from the prevailing racial fray. She is alienated from the new crop of Black kids at her school (most of whom do not come from wealthy families). Her only connection to the mainstream Black community is through a family business operated by her uncle, and that's getting looted -- by other Black people. Her elder sister is married to a blue-collar White man their parents don't approve of, and has dropped out of college.
Is it any good?
This book successfully tackles a complex subject by juxtaposing a legendary manifestation of racial disharmony with a promising tale of racial progress. In her debut novel, Christian Hammonds Reed has crafted a winner in The Black Kids. The main character, who narrates the story in the first person, has a strong, clear voice and an interior life that wavers from precocious to childish -- like a real teen's. And there are many well-developed characters to love, built with sharp, economical details, like the father's international finance books, the outdoorsy principal's sun-weathered skin, the boy who wears socks to the beach, and the girl who reclaims the nasty nickname other kids have given her by introducing herself with it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the theme of ambition in The Black Kids. How do the teens' ambitions serve or undermine their hopes, dreams, relationships, and happiness?
How have your friendships from elementary school held up over time? What's caused some to last and others to end?
What historical event has most affected you so far?
- Author: Christina Hammonds Reed
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, High School, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: October 21, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 362
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: January 25, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love stories of racism and Black history
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.