I imagine sitting down to write your first novel would be a daunting task filled with trepidation but Kiley Reid is more confident than a tequila fuelled stag do in Benidorm. There is no self doubt to be seen in this novel from the writer and this has not gone unnoticed as Reid secures her place on the 2020 Booker Prize longlist. But more importantly she secures her place on the bookshelves of women like me for the foreseeable future.
Such a Fun Age tells the story of Emira as she is gently nudged towards a slow burning quarter life crisis of sorts thanks to a relatable concoction of societal pressures and money worries. But do not think the pages of this book are filled with panic, quite the opposite, in fact I’m confident Emira would never refer to her situation as a crisis. Reid paints a picture of a calm and collected young woman who takes each day as it comes even if that day is filled with micro aggressions from her ‘mumtrepreneur‘ boss Alix or back handed compliments from her friends. Like many young black women it’s all part and parcel of navigating through the world and Emira is seemingly desperate to do so quietly, discreetly causing a little disruption as possible. It’s not that Emira wants to choose the path of least resistance it’s that she’d rather take the path that is most ‘chill’.
The first chapter is so pacey you think for a second you might have opened your book at least 50 pages deep. By doing so Reid fantastically mimics the nature of the incident that occurs with the structure of the book, both you the reader and Emira the protagonist are left shaking your head thinking ‘well that escalated quickly’. I’d describe the incident in question as mistaken identity driven by racial profiling as Emira takes the precocious but adorable toddler she babysits, Briar, on trip to the local boujee supermarket (think Wholefoods but extra fancy). Their evening is any thing but chill as Emira is essentially accused of kidnapping.
There really is so much to love about this book. Every single character has such depth yet it never feels laboured and clunky. Reid’s subtle nods to their personality traits will have you rolling your eyes saying ‘Classic Alix/Josefa/Kelley’ despite only being introduced to them pages before. Even Briar the toddler, the apple of Emira’s eye and evidently the only real saving grace of her babysitting job is so entertaining. She is a breathe of fresh air, and often offers more directness and clarity than her people pleasing mother could ever dream of.
Kiley Reid delivers a gripping tale that is so fascinating it reads like a thriller with all of its unexpected twists, turns and layers. I am tempted to say it is not a million miles away from a totally understated book version of Jordan Peele’s blockbuster ‘Get Out’. From the cringe worthy moments of forced ‘relatability’ from the liberal white upper class to the fetishisation of blackness. Seeing the world through the eyes of a young black woman who is not necessarily lost but has taken a slight detour from the conventional route to success is so refreshing. Emira is not perfect and she has absolutely no desire to be which is more than can be said for many of the people she finds herself surrounded by. I cannot wait to see what Kiley Reid does next, but for now I hope she finds herself £50,000 richer as the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize.
I challenge any young woman who’s feeling a little overhelmend by this whole ‘being an adult’ thing to read this book and not see a piece of themselves in Emira. Today, I will be awarding ‘Such A Fun Age’ four bookworms out of five!