The Kid and a Quest for Redemption

BlogHer Review
In Sapphire's new novel, The Kid, sequel to Push, we follow the store of Abdul from the day of his mother's funeral. Precious, his mother and the protagonist of Push died of HIV-related complications and her nine-year-old son, who had been the redemption of the first novel, now must seek his own safe storyline. Unfortunately, his path is a horrifying one, filled with physical and sexual abuse and a survivalist mentality that mitigates the morals his mother tried to teach him.

The Kid can be a difficult story to read, as the author's descriptions of abuse are graphic and remorseless and frequent. Abdul, who becomes known as J.J. at the caprice of his orphanage administrators and abusers, learns to trade his own body in prostitution, and also becomes an abuser to smaller boys, following an all-too-common pattern of abuse victims' behaviors. As a reader, I was sympathetic to the abuses he endured and felt distanced by the abuses he meted out; it was hard to watch the character I worried over early on create the same pains for other boys that had been created for him.

But that seems to be the author's intent, as this is not a book with many clear-cut answers. Is Abdul a flawed character we can still relate to, or a horrible demon with no redeeming qualities? Is his behavior predictable, or could he have been saved from perpetuating abuses? Is this really a story about a character, or a flawed and insufficient public services system? And in the final setting, where Abdul is held in a mental hospital, is he there because he is guilty or because he is crazy? And does he get to leave, and if so, will that be a redemption? Or will it lead him to a life of further crimes and subterfuge?

The Kid is an emotional and compelling story, even as horrible abuses are narrated so dispassionately and the protagonist we cheer for in the beginning chapters commits some reprehensible acts. It's a book that leaves the reader searching for more answers than before she began, and wondering for Abdul, "If only this could have been..." and thinking about herself, "There but for the grace of God go I."

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