Publisher: Penguin Book Group
Pub. Date: July 5, 2011
(Also Available in Electronic and Audio Formats)
Age Group: Adults
Review: I would first like to thank TLC Book Tours and Penguin Group for sending me a finished copy of THE KID in exchange for a fair and honest review.
THE KID by Sapphire is emotional and intense from the very beginning to it’s conclusion. It’s a tough read, seeped in a gritty reality that often reads more like non-fiction than fiction. THE KID is the sequel to Sapphire’s bestselling, PUSH, which inspired the Academy Award-nominated film, Precious. The movie garnered the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress, Mo’Nique.
I haven’t read PUSH, so I can’t compare the two novels. But once I opened THE KID I was quickly immersed into the world of the contemporary Harlem where Abdul Jones, the nine-year-old son of Precious, has been raised. At the opening, Abdul has lost his mother to AIDS. He doesn’t understand why his mother is no longer around or what the disease is. All he knows is that he’s attending her funeral and is in the care of her friend, Rita. He’s a normal kid who wants to play his video games, read his books and go to McDonald’s…most of all he desires to be with his mother.
Abdul wants desperately to go home, but the safe haven Precious created for the two of them no longer exists. Due to an unspoken illness of her own, Rita is forced to turn Abdul over to a foster mother. Smart, wise, and charismatic, Abdul wants nothing of the sort. However, he quickly finds comfort in the imaginary world he has created in his mind — a world that includes his mother. As a way of keeping his Precious’s memory alive, he has an ongoing dialogue with her spirit which keeps a watchful and strict eye over him. At the foster home, which is a brief stay, he gains a new nickname, J.J. He doesn’t like it at first but it grows on him.
Finding the foster home doesn’t pan out — thank God, I didn’t like that place either — J.J. moves into a Catholic orphanage, St. Ailanthus. He throws himself into his studies and his love of books, despite the frightening trouble at his new residence. I felt relief he was away from the foster home and possibly someplace safe. But it’s not a comforting place at all. Within the walls of St. Ailanthus, J.J. becomes the victim of sexual abuse and soon becomes the victimizer. Some of these scenes were extremely difficult to read, but I found it understandable and logical that J.J. becomes the predator.. He has no one helping him and doesn’t know right from wrong. This is often a sad fact that happens to victims of abuse. It’s a vicious cycle.
At the orphanage, J.J. finds an alliance in Jaime. However, the two find themselves in trouble. But when they stumble into the classroom of an African dance school, J.J. sees a future for himself, in music and dance. Applying himself, J.J moves through the treacherous waters of life at St. Ailanthus, connecting to Shakespeare, questioning faith, discovering history and just trying to survive. He even earns a scholarship to college. However, he turns his life towards music and art…a calling which has always seemed to be within him. The ending was quite a surprise and again comes full circle.
I must admit, THE KID is generally not my kind of book. But as I have mentioned before, in other reviews, it’s good to break out of your comfort zone and read something different. Reading a story like THE KID gives readers a different perspective on life. This life is certainly not something I’m familiar with as it’s not my own, but I could picture it all clearly.
The characters are believable and unique. J.J. is an extremely well-developed character and so are the side characters that filter in and out of his world. Sometimes the dialogue J.J. has with his mother’s spirit is hard to follow, but I liked how his mother stays with him. The story has a staccato rhythm like the beating of a drum. I found this interesting because J.J. beats to his own drum throughout the novel.
Sapphire’s lyrical and poetic writing gives us a glimpse into an urban landscape filled with haunting violence. A word of warning, THE KID has a lot bad language and is not for everyone. Yet THE KID and J.J. will stay with you long after you turn the final page. I wouldn’t be surprised if THE KID was made into a movie like Precious.
I’m giving THE KID 4 “Relaxing with a Good Book” retro pictures for being soulfully realistic!
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