** contains spoilers! **
Kiley Reid’s debut novel Such a Fun Age makes for an exciting, warming read.
Set in Philadelphia, it follows Emira, a young black woman in her twenties who is a babysitter for the Chamberlain’s daughter Briar. Alix and Peter Chamberlain also have another younger daughter, Catherine, yet doesn’t appear to be as much ‘trouble’ for the pair.
It starts with Emira being called late whilst out with friends to collect Briar as the parents have experienced an egging-stoning incident at their home. Emira rushes over with her friend Zara, who quickly sober up, before taking darling Briar to the local supermarket. Once Zara leaves, Emira and Briar search for nuts, but are approached by a white male security guard, who basically accuses her of kidnapping Briar! Inevitably, this gathers the interest of surrounding shoppers, including Kelley, a white man who films it and informs the guard he is in the wrong. Emira manages to get Peter to come to the rescue and tell the guard she is indeed Briar’s sitter.
Throughout the book, young Briar steals the show! This beautiful, innocent and sweet girl is portrayed as a fun character with a unique relationship with Emira, who loves her dearly, despite being only her sitter.
After the racist incident, Emira insists the video is not made public, much to Kelley’s dismay, however they eventually become an item, where they don’t really talk about the issue of race between them or the ‘n-word’which he uses in an offhand comment.
We soon learn how there could be a storyline and some drama, as Reid takes us back to ‘Alex’s’ days in college, where she and Kelley were in fact a couple. However, we witness her heartbreak as he ends their brief relationship via letter – a poetic response to her writing him letters:
‘I think it best we went our separate ways, and that those paths never crossed again’ Ouch.
Anyway, more beef arises when Alix (note with an ‘i’) insists Emira stays for Thanksgiving, along with her boyf she has not heard much of. Is that a hint of jealousy you are detecting? Yes, my friend.
Low and behold, Kelley and ‘Alex’ come face-to-face where he tells Emira after that she must quit her job and that Alex is bad news.
Anyhow, tension between the couple sizzles, especially as Alix plots to get Kelley out of her life to keep her close to herself and the adorable Briar, who equally adores Emira.
Tragedy soon strikes for the couple at Emira’s birthday, whose friends see the video has been leaked, which leaves her confused and betrayed – with only her and Kelley having been the only ones with the video in the first place, that leaves only one culprit… surely? Emira’s girlfriends back her up and we see the couple part.
But surely there is more to the story?
Alix is quite clearly falling in love with Emira (borderline obsessed) as she gains her trust to secure a full-time role for her as Briar’s sitter. With her job prospects below the line as it is, she doesn’t have much choice; besides, who can resist Briar?!
With the video out, Emira receives an influx of offers and sees comments, GIFs and snips (you name it) circulating; much to her reluctance, she and Alix manage to secure an interview on the local news (of which Peter is the news anchor) to discuss the video.
But wait up, in comes Zara again as she overhears and relays to Emira that it was infact Alix who leaked the video via her email! Kelley’s warnings of Alex/Alix are confirmed. Cue mic-drop: Emira drops the bombshell on TV that she will not be working for Alix anymore.
She tells her ‘I think it best we went our separate ways, and that those paths never crossed again’. Whoa.
The ending is bittersweet as Emira manages to negotiate a full-time role from her current part-time type-writing, where Reid quickly describes how she manages to progress up the job ladder quickly. From afar, Emira sees Kelley (they don’t reunite unfortunately) and the Chamberlains, and young Briar continues being just Briar.
Rating – 5/5 (A very unique read!)
Genre – domestic fiction