Rating: really liked it
✧ find this review & others on my blog ✧
Such a Fun Age is a novel that disheartened me even if it didn’t surprise me. Something akin to relief gusted through my room like a warm front when I finished it: not because it was an unpleasant read—though it does depict many unpleasant moments—but because the story so often wound up my feelings to such a high point of second-hand embarrassment that it felt like a huge weight slid down my shoulders when it was all over.
Narratives about race and privilege are not unfamiliar literary fodder, but in her novel, Reid demonstrates a remarkable insight by taking on the monumental challenge of revealing the state of America through what she called the “everyday domestic biases that we don’t even know we have.” Reid’s exploration is a fresh and interesting look at the uneasy performance of “wokeness”—a paper-thin tissue of a word, so conspicuous that it now immediately breeds distrust.
At the outset of the novel, Emira Tucker, a young Black woman, is accosted by a security guard in an upscale grocery store in Philadelphia and accused of kidnapping the white toddler she’s babysitting. The scene is unnerving, devastating, and all-too-familiar, but rather than dwell on the racial and political implications of this terrible, defining incident, Reid almost speeds through it, and so does Emira, who chooses to give the whole affair the shake of the head she believes it deserves, like putting the whole night in a museum—removed, too-soon forgotten—and turns her mind to the far more preoccupying matter of her inching closer to her 25th birthday and towards the inevitability of being kicked-out of her parents’ health insurance.
The author’s choice, however, doesn’t make these details any less affecting, and suggests them, instead, as an essential context for the relationship residing at the heart of the novel: between Emira and her employer, Alix Chamberlain, a white wealthy influencer who built a flowering career writing letters, an endeavor that carried her forward into a disappointing, grown-up, settled existence in Philadelphia.
Reid’s novel is smartly and solidly told; her prose is incisive and lived-in, as though carefully culled from years of listening in on private conversations. But the book’s biggest triumph is the way the author hides barbed, little truths in her otherwise lightweight yarns while still conveying a clear-headed message, as permeable as sandstone.
As it happens, if lack of subtlety was a recognized art, Alix Chamberlain would have museum exhibits in her honor. Alix feels that she has earned her woke badge, and prides herself on that fact. But after the incident at the supermarket, Alix decides to “wake the fuck up” and “get to know Emira better”. This wake-up call is followed by an immediate urge to announce her newly invigorated self-awareness to Emira, hoping for recognition, for some kind of affirmation of the work Alix has done on herself. She is desperate for Emira to know “that one of Alix’s closest friends was also black. That Alix’s new and favorite shoes were from Payless, and only cost eighteen dollars. That Alix had read everything that Toni Morrison had ever written.”
Alix’s sudden warmth, which seems to presume upon some happy old intimacy she and Emira did not share, throws Emira into awkwardness, and soon, Alix’s well-meaning words and best efforts to cultivate an image of herself as being politically aware and intensely woke—which too often made me cringe with a sharpness that was almost pain—turn into empty puffs of air. Too caught in the weave of her fumbling attempts at identifying with Emira—even going as far as peering on the notifications displayed on the lock-screen of Emira’s phone, mining for answers about her social life—Alix is incognizant of her own remarkable lack of self-awareness. After all, outside the oleaginous remarks and overtly friendly behavior, there remained the central idea that Alix just didn’t want Emira to quit her job.
Reid’s subtle evisceration of these woke wannabes—every person of color will recognize in the deftly rendered characters at least a few people they’ve had the misfortune of encountering in real life—might be even more bracing at close range. People love the idea of being “woke”, even if they don’t know what to do with it. Even if they only know how to do exactly the wrong thing. They want to be considered progressive, and want everyone else to know just how progressive they are. But these efforts, while they create the illusion of reflectiveness and depth, are in fact brittle and shallow as a mirror. Some people do acknowledge the benefits that accrue to them by means of their white privilege, carefully listen, and do their best to amplify the voices of their marginalized counterparts. But many utterly fail to recognize the prejudices in themselves, and like Alix, feel compelled, even, to assert a kind of spurious decency: they claim to be aware and yet are, sadly, incredibly lacking in any kind of self-awareness.
Though the ending feels a little abrupt and does not resonate as strongly as the rest of the novel, Such a Fun Age succeeds at the things it sets out to do with brilliance and verve.
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Rating: really liked it
Wow. The writing in this book is so light and breezy and easy to read that it can take a while to appreciate the depths the author takes us to in Such a Fun Age. Combine the compelling writing with a cute font on the cover and this book is seriously deceiving.
You know, this book reminded me of some of the criticisms others and myself had about The Help. I feel like I have to be careful here because even now, ten years later, there are people who love that book so much that they kiss it before they go to bed each night. But The Help honestly seemed to me like a way for white folks to make themselves feel better about the way they behaved during Jim Crow segregation. Total white lady saviour vibe.
This book is like what would have happened if Abilene had called Skeeter out and told her to go be a hero somewhere else. Of course, Such a Fun Age is set in 2015 and not the 1960s so the circumstances are different but, alarmingly, not that different.
Such a Fun Age is about two women-- Emira Tucker and Alix Chamberlain. Emira is a young black babysitter for the Chamberlains' eldest daughter, Briar, and is currently juggling two jobs as she struggles to pay rent, keep her healthcare, and figure out what she wants to do with her life. Alix Chamberlain is a wealthy white blogger and minor social media celebrity who battles doubts and insecurities, all while on the surface maintaining a facade that she has everything she ever wanted.
When Emira is stopped by a security guard at a fancy grocery store and accused of kidnapping Briar, everything changes. The moment is caught on camera and, though Emira is determined to forget all about it, both Alix and the bystander who filmed it want to make things right and get justice for Emira.
It's a very engaging contemporary novel with a lot of nuance. Though it is clearly a critique of "white saviours", Reid is careful not to let the characters fall into one-dimensional stereotypes. She uses these fully-fleshed out characters to explore the way well-meaning white people often overstep and actually make black people's lives harder. "Protecting" and "helping" as a means of control is nothing new, but the author really shines a light on the way white liberals use these words to take over situations and narratives.
Plus it's also just a really great story about two very different women, all their quirks and habits, and what happens when their lives intersect.
The only thing that was a little disappointing was the way it ended. (view spoiler)[Alix was such a complex, flawed and misguided character throughout, so it was a shame to see the ending destroy her characterization. Especially the flashback where she discovered the letter and decided to lie about it. I thought it was smarter, and truer, to paint her as someone who thought she was helping even when she was being selfish. It weakened the story's power when she was reduced to a scheming villain, in my opinion. (hide spoiler)]
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Rating: really liked it
Wow! Okay! I don’t know what I have to feel about this book. Did I like it? Mostly I did. But as soon as I finish, I felt like something missing. Maybe I didn’t like how the things ended for the characters and I wished alternate solutions for their stories.
I enjoyed the writing and intercepted lives of two female protagonists, the development and progression, objective and genuine approach of racism, diversity, hypocritical attitudes of the people. At the end of the story I lost my love for Alixa and wanted to kick her ass so bad and shook Emira’s shoulders so hard to force her get a grip. I still stick with 3.5 stars and of course I will round them up to 4 because the story really got imprinted on my mind and I wanted to learn what’s gonna happen , how the interwoven relationship dynamics will change the characters’ lives and what kind of revelations will come out.
So we have a privileged, wealthy, blogger Alixa Chamberlain, living her dream life but it’s still something missing about her. She’s insecure, not quite satisfied with her new appearance after having her new baby, questioning her life choices. Our other protagonist Emira Tucker, nanny ( correction: babysitter as Alixa calls he, making her wear a uniform, yes like younger version of Viola Davis from “Help” movie) of Alixa’s elder daughter Briar, trying so hard to make her ends meet by working at two jobs and pushing hard to pay her rent and keep her health insurance.
One day, at eleven p.m. Alixa calls Emira urgently to take her daughter to the grocery store.(Awkward request alert! Of course nothing good will come out after strange demands) So Emira leaves her friends, still wearing her party clothes and a little tipsy to help her employers but surprisingly security guard at the grocery store interrogates her and gets suspicious that she kidnapped Briar. As soon as Alixa’s husband Peter arrives to the store, the problem solves and Emira wants to forget all of this humiliated misunderstanding even though somebody filmed everything to make things right and emailed the video to her.
Then that somebody from the grocery store runs into Emira at the train: a good looking, tall, witty man named Kelley and they start to see each other. So as you may imagine even the one of the worst nights of her life helps her to meet with her new boyfriend. But well… this coincidental beginning and her humiliating experience will be the key of Pandora’s box and helps all hell breaks loose. It will affect both of Emira and Alixa’s lives.
Alixa is selfish, insecure and a little immature character. Most of the book I loved her craziness, her passionate approach to Emira which makes her cross the line between protectiveness and obsessiveness. But at the end some big revelations about her made me lose my sympathy for the character and as some parts I found Emira, a little lost, aimless, confused. If she was younger than 25, I may understand how she lost the tracks of her own life or if there was any tragic background story tells that why she prefers only existing instead of finding her passion about life.
Overall: I loved the pure, objective, riveting writing style and the author’s approach to the sensitive matters. I partly loved the characters and their relationship dynamics, the big revelations and the story’s direction after everything is getting out of control. Only thing I didn’t like the conclusions of characters’ stories. But this is still interesting, fast pacing and promising reading. I’m happy to start the year by finishing this reading. So yes it may be considered as a winner!
Rating: really liked it
While this is a simplistic story, it’s still a very accurate portrayal of performative activism and woke culture. I recognized so many of the central characters within people who exist in real life. I found myself nodding along to the book’s portrayals of liberal white allyship and the way people often believe their own self-serving narratives. I think because of the simplistic nature of the storyline though, the book was a little predictable and didn’t totally blow me away with new revelations, which is why I haven’t bumped it up to 5 stars. It’s still very relevant though, and I think people who have experienced these types of characters IRL will appreciate the way the author has tackled this story.
Rating: it was ok
Entertaining mostly towards the end. For a debut novel it wasn’t terrible, but I most definitely felt like I was reading a book written about black struggles by a white woman. The dialogue was also fucking atrocious.
Rating: liked it
the plot of this was super gripping (i read it in like 12 hours???) and i enjoyed the strong message that was woven throughout. interested to see how this author grows as she publishes more books.
Rating: liked it
i absolutely adore reese witherspoon and enjoy her book club choices, but this one isnt quite the hit i was expecting it to be, unfortunately.
i appreciate the dialogue this story opens about heavy topics such as racial inequality and ‘white saviour’ complexes. racism is a topic that tends to be discussed in fiction, but focuses more on the aggressive and antagonistic part of it. this is the first novel ive read where white people treat POC fairly, but only because they think it makes them a good person/better than everyone else. its just another form of racism that i havent considered much and is really eye-opening.
that being said, i couldnt get on board with the writing. i understand this is a debut novel, but wow. the writing just did not click for me. its disjointed, has no flow or pacing, the dialogue is either forced or cringy, and it does not leave room for me to bond or relate to any of the characters. its quite unfortunate.
the message of the story is important, i just wish it had been executed a little bit better.
↠ 2.5 stars
Rating: liked it
2.5 stars. An easy read that lacked the emotional connection and powerful punch that I had expected.
This book is all the buzz lately. I couldn’t wait to dig in and see what all the hype was about. I’m not sure if the overhyping is what made me feel like I was missing something or this simply wasn’t a powerful book for me. Yes, there are some very heavy topics covered within these pages, but the way they are presented didn’t impact or resonate with me.
From start to finish the narrative made me feel distanced from the characters and storyline. I never felt completely immersed in their lives. It was like I was being told this story without being given the opportunity to truly experience it. Often times the dialogue felt awkward and somewhat forced which further distanced me from the characters. I didn’t like the way the changing perspectives overlapped - it often felt choppy and lacked flow.
Overall, it was an easy, quick read, but not one that lived up to my expectations. Please read the many raving reviews before deciding on this book, as I am clearly the outlier.
Thank you to Edelweiss for my review copy!
Rating: really liked it
***WINNER GOODREADS CHOICE AWARD FOR BEST DEBUT NOVEL 2020***
This is one of those books that’s hard to review because I think if read quickly it would come across as just a good story. Reading this more slowly it’s revealed that there is much more to this book than just entertainment. It highlights lots of racial issues, from two different points of view. Alix is a successful, married white woman and Emira an “undecided” African-American woman. Alix discovered her talents quite quickly and has a thriving online business as well as lots of speaking engagements.She and her husband now have what seems to be “the good life”. She has one amazing, open hearted and apparently open mouthed (in jest here) little 3 year old daughter. She plays an important part in this novel, her name is Briar. She also has an infant daughter, about 6 months old whom she usually has with her when she works.
Enter our other main character Emira, a 25 y/o African American, college educated young women who hasn’t figured out what she wants to do with her life. To some she would appear in need of a helping hand, mentorship or whatever. In truth, however, Emira isn’t overly upset about where she is in her life, she is giving herself permission to explore different ideas and career paths.
These two women start out in the book as “boss” and “babysitter”, but Alix’s feelings for this young woman go much deeper and sometimes in a questionable way.
Here’s a good little taste of what’s to come, the big “event” that changes the trajectory of the relationship between these two women. “So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket 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 it right.”
Into this mix of emotions and presumptions between both Alix and Emira we add Kelley Copeland, the boy who “ruined Alix’s senior year in high school”. He presumably circulated a letter she had written. Lots of high school students descended on her home and swimming pool, one young man had his scholarship taken away because Alix called the police when the students wouldn't leave. Alix has never really gotten over Kelley and now he shows up in the most awkward position possible.
Sometimes I think that racial relationships have gotten better in the last decade but then I read a book like this and it really makes me wonder, have we really made much progress understanding each other and our differences? Are we still trying to make everyone act like white people? I had never heard the term white “saviorism” before but it was an interesting topic to contemplate. In this book I felt that both women used each other in different ways, neither was guilt free in the outcome of their story.
I can definitely recommend this book to everyone, it's a quick read with a big message!
I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss. The novel is set to publish in January 2020.
Rating: it was amazing
There are books I read for the pure pleasure of the storytelling and there are books I read to make me think. Occasionally a book comes along that does both, without it being an “issue book”. This is one of those books.
One of the best ways to make a point is through witty satire, through stereotypical characters who are ridiculous, yet compulsively readable. Taking the biggest hit in this book are the progressive “woke” individuals who are so fearful of appearing racist, so convinced that they aren’t racist, that they lack self-awareness.
Alix (pronounced Ah-Leeks) Chamberlain is an entitled, progressive, white woman in her 30s who is a blogger and Instagram influencer. Emira is a college-educated black woman in her mid-20s, uncertain and confused about what she wants to do with her life. Emira is hired by Alix to babysit her toddler daughter, Briar (who is just the sweetest!). A defining incident happens early in the book and from there we are given the perspectives of Alix and her privileged friends (who are both black and white), as well as Emira, her friends, and her (white) boyfriend.
This is so much more than a book about racial bias. It’s about race, yes, but it‘s also about social class, success, parenting, friendship, and the relationship between a nanny and the family she works for.
Bias can be subtle. It can be the hubris of thinking you know what is right for others. Everyone here seems to know what Emira needs, and are so busy "doing good" that they don't bother to really get to know Emira or her wants and needs. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and it’s never more evident than in this story.
One measure of a successful story/book is that it accomplishes what the author sets out to do. This author avoids the easy solutions and doesn’t tell us what to think. Instead she makes the reader think and examine their own feelings, opinions and actions, which can be uncomfortable indeed. The last line in the book packs quite a punch.
Do yourself a favor and grab a friend or two, and read this book together. It’s a book that begs discussion. I had the good fortune to read this book with my friends Marialyce and Victoria. Our discussions were insightful and thought-provoking, enhancing the experience beyond measure.
This is an amazing debut, and I can’t wait to see what this author writes next.
*I received a free digital copy of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: it was ok
I pre-ordered this book because of the premise. The complexity of what happens at the cross-section of racial stereotypes, especially with differing points of view, seemed compelling.
I spent 80% of this book FURIOUS. For context, I’m a black woman, and that influenced how I read this book.
Almost all of the characters in this book were infuriating. The character of Emira, the 25-year old college graduate with no real future, comes across as undeveloped. She’s written with three different personas: the sweet and seemingly only woman to understand and cherish three-year-old Briar (who’s complex personality is confusing for such a little person but okay); the quiet and almost uneducated employee of Alix (some of the interactions had me wondering about Temple’s degree program); and a partying, mid-twenties friend and girlfriend that is depicted as the “real” Emira. The problem is, none of the personas are written well – they all felt like underdeveloped caricatures that needed more complexity. Emira stresses about job security and health insurance the entire book, to the point of being jealous of her friend’s successes and having valid fears about paying bills – yet she didn’t start applying for ANY jobs until her friends made her? It’s one thing to not know your place in life after college; it’s another to seemingly not know how to put yourself in any position to better your situation. This is made clear over and over again. Emira, despite being surrounded by resources of all types, knows nothing about how to do better for herself. This mindset is exactly what Alix preys on, and where the complex of saviorism comes into play.
Moving on to Alix. The entitlement and saviorism had me livid. I will say that I appreciated the insight into her thinking, especially when she was talking with her friends. Alix’s perspective is one that I know exists, but never will truly understand. I will never know what it could be like to be a white woman with the world – and people - at her fingertips. The best writing in this book was with Tamra, Jodi and Rachel because in those moments, I could truly appreciate the dilemmas that Alix felt she had. Otherwise, she was selfish, unaware, entitled and absolutely disgusting. Her depiction of the hell of her senior year felt overexaggerated for her to still be affected 15 years later. She’s clearly done well for herself - get over it. To find out that *spoiler alerts in the remainder of this paragraph* Kelley was right about the letter after all, and that she chose to play out a victim narrative for FIFTEEN YEARS is exactly what’s wrong with the world today. Before I found out that she invited Robbie to her house unintentionally, I didn’t have a problem with her calling the police. In that moment, those kids were trespassing on her property without her permission. But knowing that SHE KNEW at the end? GAH.
I’m so furious I almost can’t finish this review. But here are a few shorter thoughts to wrap up what’s quickly becoming a novel.
Kelley: I can’t decide if Kelley truly fetishizes black people/culture. His only interactions with white people were always negative – is this why he gravitates to black people or the othe way around? I don’t know. Alix went out of her way to find out that Kelley’s other girlfriends were all “lightskinned” or “exotic” and that Emira was the exception. Yet another white person in this novel who wants to save a black person, especially one with darker skin.
Tamra: Yet someone else trying to save Emira, but this is supposed to be okay because black on black saviorism is okay. Yeah, no.
Emira’s friends: love the support system but the characterization of slang, dress, affectation, etc. is over the top. It’s possible to be relaxed with your friends and speak properly, I promise.
And then the ending? *SPOILER ALERT* What was truly resolved? Emira’s still undecided what to do with life, even after her boss literally told her to move up and on. Briar is seemingly still ignored, although it’s unclear if there’s a new black nanny in the picture. No changes from Kelley either, just back to his standard black arm candy to make himself feel better about his life choices.
It only gets a two for the friendship stories – those were well written. Outside of that, I’d give this zero stars if I could and I could have done without reading this book.
Rating: really liked it
Rating: really liked it
Rating: it was amazing
This was so fucking good.
Rating: it was amazing
Emira Tucker, an African American woman, was going to turn 26 years old next week....
....soon to get booted off her parents’ health insurance. She’s known for a while that her babysitting job - ( for Alix and Peter Chamberlain- white upper class couple with two small daughters), wasn’t exactly sustainable- but she needed to figure out things on her own.
Emira had a college degree...but she didn’t know what she wanted to do next.
In the meantime - Emira’s part time babysitting job covered - ‘ ‘barely’ - her monthly expenses.
She also knew that it wasn’t her job to raise 3 year old Briar. But for 21 hours a week, Blair got to matter to someone. And that mattered to Emira.
Blair & Emira were a unit!
Emira’s nickname for Briar...was pickle. Their relationship was heartwarming.
Briar was an inquisitive 3 year old....intelligent, odd and charming....and filled with humor.
Emira knew she was good at her job and it was gratifying.
Briar thought the world of Emira.
And Emira loved the ease in which she could lose her self in the rhythm of childcare.
Personally - I felt Emira was a valuable asset in Briar’s life...
Alix was often busy working - with her baby-toddler-Catherine-in-toe. Alix loved her job-loved being a working mother. She loved both her daughters and her husband.
Alix also loved Emira - the woman she paid to love chatty-adorable Briar.
Peter was working full time in TV journalism.... and wasn’t around too much.
Kelley Copeland, a white 32 year old male, was Emira’s new boyfriend.
“Emira and Kelly talked about race very little because it always seemed like they were doing it already. When she really considered a life with him, a real life, a joint-bank-account-emergency-contact-both-names-on-the-lease life, Emira almost wanted to roll her eyes and ask, ‘Are we really gonna do this? How are you gonna tell your parents?’”
“Who’s gonna teach their son that it doesn’t matter what his friends do, that he can’t stand too close to a white woman when he’s on the train or in an elevator? That he should slowly and noticeably put his keys on the roof as soon as he gets pulled over?”
Is there such a thing of being the opposite of racist? Is it possible for a white person to like a black person too much?
Alix Chamberlain, 33 years old, (who had a relationship with Kelly in High School and a ‘piercing damaging-to-others’, breakup...fifteen years ago), was saying....
“Kelley is one of those white guys who not only goes out of his way to date black women but ‘only’ wants to date black women”.
“How difficult is it to tell someone, ‘hey, your boyfriend likes you for the wrong reasons?’”
One of Alix’s friends, Tamra, pitches in her point of view...
She thinks Emira is very lost.
I WASN’T SO SURE ABOUT THIS NEXT EXCERPT....but I thought about it along with many points of views examined in this TERRIFIC & REFRESHING debut...( while hiking this morning)....
“Emira is twenty-five years old and she has no idea what she wants or how to get it. She doesn’t have the motivation to maintain a real career the way our girls will have, which is probably not her fault but it doesn’t make it less true. What I’m saying is...
There are a lot of jerks like Kelley out there, but when they get hold of girls like Emira? Someone who’s still trying to figure herself out? That’s when I start to really worry. And the more I think about it, it makes a lot of sense she ended up with a guy like this. He’s looking to validate himself through someone else. She hasn’t caught on because she doesn’t know who she is”.
The storytelling, with the multi textured, well developed characters was fascinating, refreshing and thought-provoking.... with our own thoughts doing somersaults.
Things were very complicated from the very start of this novel. FANTASTIC PULL-IN- opening scene.
The complexities of the inner thoughts from each of the characters added authentic truth.
Haven’t we all had thoughts we were not proud of? Do we beat ourselves up for our ugly thoughts - or just notice them and let them pass? ( ha, we’ve probably all done a little of both)...
It would be so easy to judge - or point fingers at any one of our leading characters ( Emira, Alix, or Kelly) - or the supporting characters, too, for that matter....
but in my opinion - this novel provided an opportunity to get bigger than finger pointing...
instead it’s worth looking at the bigger issues at hand — and the humanity of the human condition.
Each character’s inner voice was worth examining...and worth putting our own judgements aside to ‘really’ get each one of their points of view.
TERRIFIC DEBUT, by Kiley Reid ( a new author to admire)