*Starred Review* Reed's probing debut novel explores how wealth, race, class, and privilege intersect against the tumultuous backdrop of the Rodney King Riots. Ashley Bennett is a Black teen from an affluent family living in Los Angeles in 1992. As such, her only concern is having a perfect beachy summer until the Rodney King beating, protests, and riots thrust her life and friendships into turmoil. As the world around her splinters, Ashley must figure out whom she truly is, whom her real friends are, and how to stand proud as a Black girl in America. In Ashley, Reed gives readers an authentic, flawed, and confused character who undergoes considerable personal growth as she comes to important realizations about her identity, her aspirations, and, notably the person she is not. Brilliantly woven into this deeply personal narrative arc are explorations of police brutality, racial inequality, and upheavals within the Black community as a whole. Intra-family struggles and relationships are also a central theme of the book, and it doesn't shy away from discussions of colorism and generational trauma. This story may be a work of historical fiction, but its relevance to today's social and political events adds to its eye-opening power, making it a novel that demands to be read. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Unfolding in the six days following the 1992 acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King, Reed's poetic, layered, and seamlessly intersectional debut depicts the coming-to-consciousness of sheltered Ashley Bennett, one of the few Black students at a wealthy, largely white Los Angeles high school. Though Ashley encounters racism, she's mostly concerned with fitting in with her white childhood friends; her college-dropout sister, Jo, meanwhile, spray paints Communist slogans on the scarred city. Ashley becomes aware of her own racism after accidentally starting a rumor that LaShawn, a Black basketball player on scholarship, may have looted his new sneakers. Getting to know LaShawn is just part of an education that includes a scary brush with the police, as well as long untold family stories about Black Wall Street and intergenerational depression. Although the novel skews a bit lengthy, Reed's sharp cultural observations make it a pleasurable read, and the world she creates is notably difficult, complex, and funny. Ages 14–up. Agent: David Doerrer, Abrams Artists Agency. (Sept.)
Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.
School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 9 Up—Ashley Bennett is almost done with her senior year of high school when the VERDICT in the Rodney King trial comes out, shaking up her halcyon life. In Los Angeles in 1992, Ashley is the lone Black girl among her group of white friends who don't understand that she has to behave better than them to be seen as just as good. Jo, her "troubled older sister," gets caught up in the injustice of the VERDICT and is drawn to the riots, perplexing and worrying Ashley and her family. Stuck between worlds, with her affluent Black family in their white neighborhood, and still being taken care of by Lucia, her Guatemalan nanny and second mother, Ashley isn't sure where she fits in. While bigger issues are at play, she still has personal problems, keeping a secret from her friends and accidentally spreading a rumor that LaShawn, one the few Black kids at her school and the star basketball player, stole a pair of Jordans during the riots. Incredibly nuanced, this story depicts realistic characters dealing with their own desires, while not forgetting the difficult circumstances in which they're living. Family history is also skillfully incorporated into the plot, connecting all the threads. This realistic fiction debut is a snapshot of a moment when people wanted to fight back against oppression and police brutality, and took action as the lines between right and wrong became blurred. VERDICT An excellent addition to all teen collections with a relatable main character who will lead readers through this heated moment in time.—Rebecca Greer, Hillsborough County P.L. Coop., FL
Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.
With the Rodney King riots closing in on high school senior Ashley and her family, the privileged bubble she has enjoyed, protecting her from the difficult realities most black people face, begins to crumble. - (Baker & Taylor)
Enjoying the luxuries of a privileged life in 1992 Los Angeles, a black high school senior is unexpectedly swept up in the vortex of the Rodney King Riots while her closest friends spread a rumor that could derail a fellow black student’s future. A first novel. Simultaneous eBook. - (Baker & Taylor)
A New York Times bestseller
A William C. Morris Award Finalist
&;Should be required reading in every classroom.&; &;Nic Stone, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin
&;A true love letter to Los Angeles.&; &;Brandy Colbert, award-winning author of Little & Lion
&;A brilliantly poetic take on one of the most defining moments in Black American history.&; &;Tiffany D. Jackson, author of Grown and Monday&;s Not Coming
Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.
Los Angeles, 1992
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It&;s the end of senior year and they&;re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.
Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley&;s not just one of the girls. She&;s one of the black kids.
As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.
With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them? - (Simon and Schuster)