~ Book Review: Such a Fun Age ~

Published December 31, 2019

Author: Kiley Reid

A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of 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 herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. 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.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times.

Such a Fun Age was an interesting page-turner centered around race and privilege. As the 2020 winner on Goodreads for Best Debut, this novel was greatly intriguing to me as I wanted to read it for myself. In Philadelphia, 25-years-old babysitter/nanny, Emira Tucker, who is black, is accused of kidnapping when she is out with the white child of 33-years-old Alix Chamberlain, Briar. The incident is recorded by a bystander named Kelley Copeland, who offers the video to Emira to help clear her name. This is an interesting exploration into this situation that occurs in the real world, so I was curious on how Reid would have it play out on the page.

The characters themselves are complex yet simple as they did not feel quite as complete and well-rounded as I expected. Emira is trying to get her life together and with her 26th birthday approaching, which means she will no longer be under her parents’ health insurance, she needs to figure things out. Emira was an enigma because she constantly fretted about her future, yet she never seemed to stop and plan for the next steps. Even if she was lost, she could have applied to anything just to tide her over until she did figure it out. As for Alix, she seemed to have a savior complex where she seemed to make it her mission to make sure Emira felt okay without really consulting with her. Her character left me with a lot of questions about her mindset with Emira and her own daughter. I had difficulty understanding why Alix was not that involved with Briar. I understand the need for Briar and Emira to spend time together, but it seemed Alix’s reasons for needing Emira around felt incomplete.

This book does a lot, so it was difficult to fully think about how I feel about it. I love the concept and the fact that it brings a real social issue in an accessible manner. The characters did fall a little flat as individuals, but I did love how they interacted on the page. There is a lot of exploration about many heavier topics and although some pieces are left unsaid, I felt this was very well done. I think a few more pages to flesh out the characters a little more could have benefited the story and really make it a home run for me. I did like that it was simple on the surface yet made the reader think and feel, but I feel the individual characters needed a little more. Overall, this was a fantastic debut and definitely made me interested to read more from Reid in the future!

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