A New York Times bestseller
A William C. Morris Award Finalist
“Should be required reading in every classroom.” —Nic Stone, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin
“A true love letter to Los Angeles.” —Brandy Colbert, award-winning author of Little & Lion
“A brilliantly poetic take on one of the most defining moments in Black American history.” —Tiffany D. Jackson, author of Grown and Monday’s Not Coming
Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.
Los Angeles, 1992
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.
Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.
As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.
With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?
Unfolding in the six days following the 1992 acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King, Reed's poetic, layered, and seamlessly intersectional debut depicts the coming-to-consciousness of sheltered Ashley Bennett, one of the few Black students at a wealthy, largely white Los Angeles high school. Though Ashley encounters racism, she's mostly concerned with fitting in with her white childhood friends; her college-dropout sister, Jo, meanwhile, spray paints Communist slogans on the scarred city. Ashley becomes aware of her own racism after accidentally starting a rumor that LaShawn, a Black basketball player on scholarship, may have looted his new sneakers. Getting to know LaShawn is just part of an education that includes a scary brush with the police, as well as long untold family stories about Black Wall Street and intergenerational depression. Although the novel skews a bit lengthy, Reed's sharp cultural observations make it a pleasurable read, and the world she creates is notably difficult, complex, and funny. Ages 14 up.