Ashley Bennett is a Senior in high school. The year is 1992 and she lives in a posh L.A. neighborhood with her parents.
Attending a private school, Ashley has had a somewhat sheltered existence.
Her parents do everything they can to provide their girls with a less stressful upbringing than they had, which I think is something a lot of parents do.
But even her parents admit, for reasons you learn as the novel progresses, they may have sheltered them a little too much.
At her school, Ashley is one of only a handful of black kids in attendance. Regardless of the numbers, all of her friends are white.
Ashley doesn’t find it odd that she is the only black girl in her friend group. It has always been that way and even when her closest friends make racist comments, she shrugs it off. It’s just how it goes.
Her comfy existence is shaken, however, after a young black man, Rodney King, is beaten nearly to death by LAPD officers and the subsequent trial of those involved.
Even though there is video evidence of the heinous acts of violence, the policemen are acquitted and the city erupts in anger. Protests and riots sweep the city and the topic of race is on everyone’s lips.
Ashley’s sister, Jo, becomes involved in the protests and her Uncle’s store is threatened by looters. It becomes unsafe to leave the house and the smell of smoke and char lingers in the air.
These events force Ashley to examine her life and her position as a black woman in a way she never has before. She starts to learn more about her family and what it means to be black in America.
This book was a ride for me. I feel like my attachment to it evolved along with the story itself.
It was a difficult one for me to rate, as I was torn almost the entire way through about how I felt about it.
On the one hand, the content, real-world issues and personal growth, were A++, 5-stars. This story is extremely topical and definitely packs a punch.
On the other hand, there’s the style in which it is told. That is what was rough for me. The stream of consciousness narrative is always very hard for me to get into. It just does not vibe for me at all.
If I were rating this book based solely on that, I would have given it 3-stars. I decided on a 4-star rating as it is a fair way for me to express my overall experience with the story; style versus substance be damned.
Please note, my personal preference for not liking stream of consciousness narrative is in no way a reflection on this author. She is clearly very talented and I am sure she chose the format she felt best to tell Ashley’s experiences.
I loved the story behind the style. Does that make sense?
Additionally, I thought using a historical event to frame this discussion was such a smart choice. It made the whole story feel very real.
I was in the 8th-grade at the time the officers were originally acquitted and although I lived on the opposite-side of the country, the impact was felt like a shock wave. I have never read a fictionalized story framed around that time and really appreciated that context.
I also appreciated Ashley’s growth as a character. She truly transformed from start to finish and by the end, I was attached her.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this novel. It’s a hard-hitting Contemporary that everyone should read.
A huge thank you to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.
I look forward to reading more from Christina Hammonds Reed in the future!