The Kid: Reality and Then Some

BlogHer Review
So, The Kid. Whew, where do I start?

The Kid, written by Sapphire, is a follow-up to Push, the novel that became the movie Precious. I have neither read Push nor seen Precious so I didn’t have any idea what to expect.

The story begins with 9 year old Abdul on the day of his mother’s funeral. He is immediately placed into a foster home that seems like the very type of situation I would imagine children being removed from, not sent to. When that doesn’t work out he goes to a Catholic home for boys, and eventually ends up on the streets by age 13. He’s a tough kid who, largely due his mother’s early influence, believes he can be something. It’s the sort of thing we all want to believe, that we make a difference and that kids absorb the love we show them. When he discovers a love for dance, and even better, that he has talent and potential, it starts to look like he might be able to pull off a happy ending. There were times I wanted his success more for his mother than for him. Unfortunately Abdul is also influenced by the bad things that happen to him after his mother’s death and there is a constant battle against darkness, one that he doesn’t always win and one that turns him into a perpetrator as well as a victim.

I think I understand the message Sapphire was trying to send with this story. I can agree that there are major problems with the foster care system and that African Americans are probably more likely to experience the types of issues described here. It’s tragic and terrible, and violence will nearly always beget more violence. Parts of this book broke my heart and other parts made me angry. At one point I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish it because it was truly making me so sad. It’s always going to be horrible, no matter what your race, to be failed by the very systems that have supposedly been put into place to protect you.

I feel like I need to say all of that before I tell you what I thought of the book because I did finish it.

The story is told mainly as a stream of consciousness. It was confusing at times, hard to know if something was really happening or if it was imagination/fantasy. That said, I did think the author did a nice job of aging Abdul’s thoughts. There was definitely a maturing. The book was so sexually violent that it was often hard to read. Not because I found it unbelievable, it was just jarring, and so constant. Realistic? Maybe. Necessary? I don’t think so. My biggest problem with this story though was not the language or the violence or even the sexuality, what I found most unbelievable was the cliché of it all. I can believe some of these things happening to the same person, but ALL of them happening to one person seems pretty unlikely. I was somewhat with her until the very end when we find out that Abdul has now been detained not because he’s black, but because his name is Middle Eastern. The author seems to want us to feel that no matter what he does or how hard he works, the deck will always be stacked against him. I hope that I’m not blinded by my whiteness when I say it was just too much.

I wanted to like this book and I wouldn’t go as far as to say I hated it. When it was over I found myself wishing I could know how things turned out for Abdul. While I was reading I said to myself over and over, if only.... and what if?

I hope he was able to overcome society and his demons, but realistically I know that would be a long shot.

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