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?- Goodreads
TW: Suicide, Violence
This book packs a punch. There are so many different layers in this book that I would love to see it part of a book club or a school curriculum., dissected and discussed.
The first part that stood out to me is the fact that I never see stories from a wealthy Black perspective. Ashley is basically looking from the outside in. Between only having white friends, her sister fighting the power (and probably experiencing mental health issues), her parents fighting her sister, the beating of Rodney King as well as her own experiences with police brutality AND racism, it was an experience to read the point of view of someone who wasn’t directly involved; from someone who isn’t poor and from someone whose family did everything in their power to be able to say “we’re not like them.”
Reading from this perspective was the best part of reading this book.
Ashley is an interesting character, who has her life planned out on the surface but is needing change. I wouldn’t say that the Rodney King beating is what caused the change but it accelerated it. Think of it as reading a novel that gets you captivated by a battle but that really isn’t the purpose of the novel. The Rodney King beating was the backdrop as well as the LA Riots, the killing of Latasha Harlins, the Tulsa Massacre and other points . All of these were important because they shaped Ashley’s changing view of the world but if you are looking for Ashley to become an activist, this isn’t for you.
There were things about Ashley that I didn’t like. Things that she allowed to fit in/stay under the radar but everyone has to learn right?
The pace of the novel was slow but it was worth it. The tone was somber even when things started to look up a bit, it doesn’t exactly change. This could be due to the fact that the environment didn’t change . . . it just got quiet (sounds familiar?).
Overall, I enjoyed this book. As I mentioned in the beginning, this should be in a book club or part of a school curriculum.