Editorial note: I received a copy of Such a Fun Age in exchange for a review.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is an engaging and original story about race and privilege. Your first must-read book of 2020!
I picked up Such a Fun Age on a Saturday afternoon and I planned to read a few chapters before dinner. Well, I ended up making us late for our dinner plans because I absolutely could not put this book down! It’s such an interesting story that is full of wit and biting social commentary. Racial biases and class divides are covered in such a unique way. It will also make you think about the impact of choices, perceptions and biases.
Two different women
We read the story from the perspectives of Alix (not Alex) Chamberlain, a white woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. Emira Tucker is a black woman working as a babysitter while she tries to figure out what she really wants to do in life. However, on one fateful night, Emira is confronted while watching the Alix’ toddler at their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right. But Emira is wary of Alix’s desire to help.
When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
As you can see, these women are as different as can be. Something about Alix is that she has grown up with wealth but yet, she finds a way to get many items for free such as high-end wine. While Emira barely has enough money to afford a cheap boxed wine. Yet, Alix is so enamored with Emira—she’s desperate to become friends with her and seems hypersensitive about not appearing racist. Where Emira is who she is and knows right off the bat that Alix would never understand her perspective on anything, even though Alix is so determined to become friends. I thought that parallel was quite interesting. Alix reminds me of that defense, “some of my best friends are black,” to prove someone is “open-minded.”
Now Emira absolutely adores Alix’s daughter Briar. Whereas Alix seems disinterested in Briar and doesn’t really try to get to know her own daughter. I really loved the scenes with Emira and Briar and I thought they were quite touching.
There’s a huge curveball that is thrown in this novel and I don’t want to give it away but it really is interesting how differently Emira and Alix react. And it’s sometimes quite funny too.
Race, privilege and coming-of-age
That night for Emira is, of course, horrifying but she quickly pushes it away as she tries to tell herself it’s just par for the course as a black woman in America. But what I found also interesting is that there are two white characters who keep trying to tell Emira how she should feel about that night and also what to do next. They can’t seem to accept her reaction as they’ll never be able to truly understand what it’s like for someone like Emira. Definitely some fake “wokeness” happening there.
Another key aspect that makes this story stand apart is how it’s very much a coming-of-age novel for Emira. All her friends either have started their careers or know exactly what they want to do in life. But Emira feels kind of lost and trapped in a post-college lifestyle where one still kinds of acts like they’re in college but they have to pay their own bills. While Emira does love Briar, it doesn’t mean she’s meant to be a babysitter for the rest of her life, especially with the lack of health insurance. I think anyone who is currently in that situation or remembers what it’s like, will very much relate to Emira’s dilemma.
Final review thoughts: An original story that covers serious topics but in a way that is relatable, sometimes funny, and always engaging.
Book clubs will have lots to discuss! Check out my book club questions here.