“Such A Fun Age” (2019) by Kiley Reid

Novel, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, December 2019, paperback edition, 310 pages. ISBN: 9780593418185.
Such a fun age | Prose & Paper

Alix Chamberlain is in her early thirties, a successful blogger and entrepreneur, and the mother of two toddler-aged daughters. Emira Tucker is 25 years old, chronically broke, and works part-time for the Chamberlain family as a babysitter. One night at a supermarket, she is accused of kidnapping the family’s oldest daughter. The incident causes major changes in Emira’s life in the months that follow: Among other things, she meets and falls in love with Kelley Copeland, who filmed the encounter on his cell phone, and she ultimately comes between her boyfriend and her employer.

The year is 2015: digitization is advancing, social media continues to gain prominence, and Black Lives Matter protests are on the rise. The book begins with a description of everyday racism in the U.S. – Briar is white, Emira is black – and also connects to this the theme of class differences. Emira has trouble finding a well-paying job despite her college education; Alix can afford to shop at a “rich people grocery store” (p. 6) where a package of yogurt-covered raisins costs eight dollars. Without being preachy, Such a Fun Age addresses the lack of awareness of one’s privilege among those who are better off. This is especially evident in the dynamic between Emira and Kelley, who is portrayed as someone who believes himself to be in a morally superior position to Alix:

The fact that you think you’re better than A-leeks or Alex or whatever is a joke. You will never have to even consider working somewhere that requires a uniform, so you can chill the fuck out about how I choose to make my living.

page 191

Another big theme is that of one’s identity, of figuring out who one is and what one wants from life. Emira is in her twenties and not clear about what she wants and what she can do. For quite some time, she doesn’t know what career path is the right one for her:

Emira didn’t love doing anything, but she didn’t terribly mind doing anything either.

page 37

Emira wished that someone would tell her what she liked doing best.

page 39

Not Alix; she knows what she wants. And yet, especially in her thirties, she questions her lifestyle and her priorities. Emira and Alix stand for all the changes that happen when you’re no longer in your twenties.

Alix couldn’t tell if she was happier or if she just cared less.

page 32

Thus, even the title becomes ambiguous: Sun a Fun Age can refer both to the (digital) age, but also to aging – which are the two major themes in the book.

The author has created a narrator who effortlessly switches perspectives and manages to deal with difficult topics in an appealing way, and with ease. The language is clear and the story easy to understand. However, the book also leaves little room for interpretation, the themes are clearly spelled out and interpreted for the reader. There is no question about the story’s meaning and message.

For me, Such a Fun Age was an entertaining, interesting book, which probably won’t leave a lasting impression though because of the lack of room for interpretation. However, I could love it if Such a Fun Age were turned into a TV series.