The Kid: A Disturbing Tale with Dancing Dreams

BlogHer Review

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.

Before choosing to read The Kid by Sapphire, I was given the following disclaimer:

 “The Kid deals with mature and explicit subject matter that some readers may find offensive or disturbing…”

Little did I know just how disturbing I would find the pages of this sequel to Push, the novel later adapted into the Academy Award-winning screenplay, Precious.

I suppose should’ve read the summary from Kirkus Reviews a little closer. If I had read the line “…he finds himself prey for older men and develops an appetite for smaller boys” I may have had second thoughts.  Instead, I jumped in thinking The Kid could have nothing on A Million Little Pieces (James Frey) or Running With Scissors (Augusten Burroughs), two of my favorite books, also known for their own somewhat disturbing nature.

I never read Push, or saw Precious so I was at first excited to delve into The Kid and see where the story lead me, offensive nature and all. Within the first 40 pages I was not only deeply troubled by what I had read but completely heartbroken. After his mother’s death Abdul Jones, who quickly becomes known as "J.J." to foster mother, cries, “I wanna go home! I wanna go home! I wanna go home!” while sitting amongst roaches and forced to live with abusive foster kids.

It is almost unbearable to read. My heart ached for him. I wanted to save him. I couldn't believe such atrocities actually exist.

And within 20 pages, I was ready to give up. Suddenly the story went from making my heart break to making my heart sick. It was still unbearable to read, yet in a different way. The exploits of “J.J.” in his new home of St. Ailanthus, where he in fact found himself prey to the brothers of the Catholic home for boys, are so descriptively written that I can, in fact, imagine I am in the mind of this very sick, very hurt little boy, who in turn, hurts many others. The trip was haunting and upsetting, and took my mind to a place I don’t ever want to revisit.

I was finally drawn in to continue reading after “J.J.” was removed from St. Ailanthus and taken to live with his great-grandmother, whom he calls “Slavery Days,” because of her ancient dress and decrepit apartment. I was intrigued by the story she told of her childhood and her journey to the Bronx, though things quickly turned again as Abdul left and to explore his dancing career, once again falling prey to an older man.

In between more sexually explicit details, I found the description of his dancing to be beautifully written and the one place of solace for both Abdul, and myself in the novel.

As he continues to explore his sexuality, dreams and realty begin to intertwine, leaving the reader unsure if Abdul is dead, or alive, crazy or sane. The last thirty pages I was in complete suspense to find what became of this troubled young man, though in the end I can’t say I was exactly sure how to feel… happy, sad, relieved, or confused?

Perhaps the only thing I can take from a novel that delivered the both disturbing and offensive nature promised in the disclaimer, is this quote:

“…in my dreams, I have not been beat… My dreams are mine, I do ‘em with my eyes open.” (page 41)

Despite it all -- the heartbreak, the brutality, the atrocities -- in his dreams, he was not beat.


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