The Kid: Shocking Rather Than Storytelling

BlogHer Review

For several years, I worked at a non-profit called CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) that utilized highly trained volunteers to advocate for the best interests of children in foster care. Each volunteer would be appointed by a judge to one specific child or family, and would have full access to both the child and all the information about that child (including the history of events that brought them into foster care) in order to make recommendations to the judge about the child's emotional, education, and health needs. During my time there, my job entailed reading through the case file of every child involved with the foster care system (over 600 children in my county alone) and to "triage" the cases to determine where our limited volunteer resources could best be utilized. Needless to say, I became all too familiar with the traumatic lives of children in the foster care system, and saw a lot of them in Sapphire's new novel The Kid.

The Kid follows the life of Abdul Jones, son of the main character Precious Jones from Sapphire's previous novel Push, as he travels through the foster care system. Often written in stream-of-consciousness style prose, The Kid is disturbing, harrowing, and sad as it graphically depicts sexual assault (as both the victim and perpetrator), abuse, AIDS, and other tragic events of Abdul's life. While I've seen some reviews of The Kid that suggest that Abdul Jones's life seemed too outrageous to feel real, I actually didn't find the events themselves that farfetched for a child of his age in an inner-city foster care system at all -- in fact, it wasn't long before I found myself instinctively drifting into the semi-detatched sort of state reminiscent of when I'd have to read case files detailing horrific abuse. I could picture his story among the others perfectly well. Sadly.

However, while the events themselves rang true to me, the prose itself did not. While reading, I often found myself with the distinct impression that that one of Sapphire's goals was to make her audience as uncomfortable as possible. Sometimes, it's good to be uncomfortable as a reader, but in this instance it felt to me like she was being shocking for the sake of being shocking, rather than needing to be a bit shocking for the purpose of telling Abdul's story. Similarly, it often felt to me like the prose was confusing for the sake of being confusing rather than being confusing in order to let us feel what it was like to be in Adul's head amidst all the confusion of his life.

Overall, I think that the story itself is an important one -- I just found it difficult to wade through the shock-attempts and confusion within the prose itself in order to actually hear it.