Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid’s first novel and a Booker Prize nominee, arrives in a flash of hype. Its protagonist, Emira, is a young black woman who babysits for a rich white family in Philadelphia. Her employer, Alix, reviews products for brands, a corporate grift bound up with a skein of flimsy, clicktivist feminism. Her new boyfriend, Kelley, is brash, older, and so tall he can lay his palms flat against the ceiling of a subway carriage. The year is 2015. What could go wrong?
Emira is unaware that her new boyfriend and her employer were high-school paramours whose entanglement ended acrimoniously. Reid skips deftly between Alix’s and Emira’s perspectives, giving the reader a God’s-eye view as the carefully constructed disaster plays out.
Alix is the well-meaning villain of the piece: deeply solicitous of Emira’s approval, she seems more interested in her babysitter’s good opinion than in her two-year-old child. She has an expensive house and expensive things in it; when she looks at them she feels ‘a painful longing to show them