I have been hearing about Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid basically since the beginning of the pandemic. I knew the basic premise of the story and I suspected the subject matter was going to be quite heavy—especially with the importance and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the (necessary) push for social change in North America. If you’re familiar with my blog, you know I tend to read really light romance or very surface-level escapism fiction, so I knew this was going to be a change for me…but I wanted to read something that would probably make me uncomfortable because I should be reading more stories by diverse authors that don’t tell my life story.
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.
I’m honestly a little confused—there was a lot of hype around this book and it won a ton of awards, and though I applaud the author for tackling the subject matter, I feel like there wasn’t enough. Alix is, of course, an entitled, rich white woman, and you’re not supposed to like her (and I didn’t), but I really wish there was a little more to Emira. I understand that it is not a Black woman’s job to educate those around her all the time and fight for what’s right because I’m sure that’s exhausting, but for her to be the central point of view in a book that’s largely about race, I would’ve wished she was a little more mature or a little more ready to put her world into context for the readers because she fell a little flat. I felt bad for Briar, Alix’s daughter and Emira’s charge, but beyond that, I was reading the story and going through the plot without really learning anything. It was a surprisingly quick, light read, but I think I was expecting a different point of view. I just wanted more. I sort of want to read a book about Emira’s group of friends, if I’m being honest…they seemed much more interesting.
“I don’t need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like… happens.” —Kiley Reid, Such A Fun Age
Thank you to Marjorie Bertrand on Unsplash for the featured photo.