The Kid: A Stolen Childhood

BlogHer Review

As soon as you think you understand what may be going on in The Kid by Sapphire, you turn the page. And realize you know nothing.

At least nothing that you can be sure about.

Abdul Jones, the narrator of the heartbreaking and disturbing sequel to Sapphire's acclaimed novel Push, is a broken and breaking boy. We first meet him when he is 9 years old, on the way to his mother's funeral. Those beginning pages are among the saddest I have ever read. It was a struggle to get through them and quite the precursor of what was to come.

Horrors are piled upon horrors as Abdul is shuffled first to a foster home where the extent of his abuse finally leads him to be removed and sent to live in a Catholic boys' home. There the abuses get worse and Abdul begins his own abusing. It's shocking what happens to this young boy, and what he does, as 13 year old.

And it is incredibly sad. If Abdul asked once, "When do I get a childhood? When do I get to be a child?" he asked it a dozen times. And the horrible thing is that once his mother died -- when he was only 9 -- his childhood was taken away. As a mother of two very young boys, I was disturbed beyond description by Abdul's situation. All I could think was how much I want to protect my children from anything bad -- and how Abdul was so alone, with no one wanting the same for him. I work hard to protect my boys' childhoods and to read about one so utterly destroyed broke my heart.

Yes, The Kid is a difficult book to read. Graphically disturbing scenes have replayed in my head over and over. There are images I wish I could strike from my mind and never have to think about again. But I can't un-read what I've read.

And I still can't be sure whether the scenes that I read were what really happened to Abdul or what he imagined. I'm not convinced I fully understand who this boy is, what all happened to him, or what he did as an abuser himself. Which I guess is the point. The world he lived in was messed up and wrong. That's got to be confusing to a young boy so, as narrator, Abdul presents his story in a convoluted, confusing way.

In The Kid, we're given a glimpse of a broken boy and we watch him struggle not to break more as life heaps more and more unfairness upon him. Finally he does break -- as you would imagine someone in his situation would -- and we are sucked into the jarring confusion right along with Abdul.

The saying goes that you have to break before you can be put back together. And in Abdul's case, he breaks and we readers are left hoping that the break is big enough for the tragic past to fall through and a more hopeful future to be built.

But as with everything in The Kid, we can't be sure of that.

What we can be sure of is that it is an engrossing book. And a story that cannot be easily forgotten.

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