Such a Fun Age starts off with privileged, wealthy, (white) blogger Alix calling her (black) babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction after a family crisis. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged. From there, we get to know Alix and her husband, Emira and her friends, and Kelley, Emiras boyfriend-to-be and also a person with whom Alix shares a (not so good) past, as things start to spin out of hand.
This book deals with really important questions like racism, diversity, hypocritical attitudes and ‘white saviour’ complexes in a genuine and objective way, and it was certainly an eye-opener in many aspects.
“I don’t need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like... happens.”
The story was fast-paced and vivid (it’s a Reese’s Book Club pick and I couldn’t stop picturing it as a movie with Reese Witherspoon herself as Alix the entire time I read it…), thought-provoking, smart and sometimes funny, and a much-needed new voice. I had such high expectations for this book and I wanted so much to love it. But it wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, sadly, even though I still enjoyed it very much.
My main problem was that I didn’t particularly like any of the main characters in the end. It was interesting to see the relationship between Alix and Emira and how it evolved from employer/employee to something else, but after a while Alix’s obsession with Emira felt really unhealthy and questionable. And at the end some big revelations about Alix made me lose my sympathy for her completely. Emira was a much more likeable character, and I loved the empathic, tender and respectful way she treated Briar, but she felt very aimless and lost most of the time. If she was younger than 25, I would have understood it, but as it was now, I started to get annoyed by her lack of direction and for not even trying to find out what she wanted from life. I won’t go into the other characters in detail, but there is a cast of interesting characters in the story, but most of them not so likeable. As Kiley Read successfully manages to point out in her book, some people may have good intentions but sometimes as they are trying too hard to let everyone know they are not racist they manage to achieve the opposite effect…
But overall, Such a Fun Age is a really good novel with insightful, thought-provoking social commentary, an important message and well-developed characters. And even though I didn’t love it the way I had hoped for (I especially didn’t like the ending, that was way too abrupt for me and left me feeling disheartened and like something was missing in the book), I still enjoyed it very much and definitely recommend it! (And I can’t wait to see the movie, ’cause surely there will be one, right Reese?)
Find out more about the book and the author here: Kiley Reid