I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Kiley Reid’s debut Such a Fun Age, Emira is struggling with what she wants to do with her life. She’s about to be kicked off her parents’ health insurance, and finding a purpose she can turn into a career is proving difficult. When a late-night run to the grocery store gets her accused of kidnapping the young girl she babysits, though, her life gets even weirder. Her employer, Alix, tries to reach out and grow closer after the incident, and a new romance with a man named Kelley leads to more drama than Emira bargained for.
Emira is a good protagonist; she’s smart and funny and an excellent babysitter, which is a major aspect of this story. Her anxieties about her future are relatable and well-written. Kelley is charming and funny, but complicated in a not-great way that makes you really consider how good a person he really is. Alix, on the other hand, annoyed me after a while. She strikes me as very manipulative and entitled, and the positive aspects of her character were soon outweighed by these to the point that I could not really view her as anything but a full-on antagonist.
The side characters provide excellent support and contrast to the main characters. Zara is wonderful, the group of Alix’s friends are entertaining, and Briar’s innocence and childish wisdom is amazing. Briar is definitely the best character other than Emira; Reid clearly has had a lot of experience caring for children and has captured how they speak and act.
The way the drama unfolds between the main three characters is akin to watching a car crash in slow motion—you don’t want to see things break, but also can’t look away. And the complexities of their backstories add layers to what otherwise might be a petty fight. There are dealings with privilege and class, personal histories and race, that give a lot of intriguing depth to the story. There are no easy answers to the problems and questions that appear in this book, and these issues are the best part of the novel because they are issues we encounter in our own lives, and which deserve examination and discussion.
In the end, Such a Fun Age is an impressive debut that grapples with obstacles lots of young adults are dealing with today. Emira is a sympathetic but strong lead, though I wasn’t a huge fan of the other two main characters. Some of the interpersonal drama irked me a lot, but the greater thematic stuff mostly made up for it. This would be a perfect book club pick for many.
Overall rating: 8/10
Such a Fun Age is available now!