Chaotic. Disturbing. Confusing. Brave. Those are words that float through my head as I try to think of what to say about Sapphire's The Kid, the follow-up her acclaimed first novel, Push.
I avoided reading Push for a long time -- a really long time -- but I felt I knew what to expect in terms of content with Push. When I closed the last page on Push I gave a sigh. The book was quite simply excellent. A large part of that, for me, was Precious. I found her hard not to like. I found it hard not to hope for her. Both The Kid and Abdul were ... harder.
Unlike his mother, Abdul Jones is both victim and perpetrator. As a reader I alternated between feeling for him and being unspeakably angry at him. There were times when I wanted to reach through the pages and slap him. There were other times when I wanted to ask the author, "Why? Why do you keep piling it on this poor boy?" Because the pain and the horror that Abdul faces seems never-ending, like glass being slowly ground back down to sand, even when he is the one creating the horror.
I spent a lot of time wondering what the truth really was. Abdul is not a reliable narrator. We don't always know what is going or if he's telling the truth, but that's the point. Abdul doesn't know, either. In his world the line between dream and reality is blurred. In some cases, certainly in terms of his family history, we often know more than Abdul does. When you turn the last page of The Kid you'll still be wondering if you got the whole story -- if you really understood what happened.
Image Credit: © Lisa O'Connor/ZUMApress.com
One of the things that makes The Kid both so brilliant and disturbing is the steam-of-consciousness way that Sapphire writes Abdul's thoughts. The reader gets so immersed in Abdul's brain that there's no escape. You cannot just skim or skip forward. Sapphire forces you to slow down, to be present and to pay attention to every last painful detail.
The Kid will not find a fan in everyone. The content is difficult and disturbingly graphic. It's potentially triggering and offensive to some readers. It's not a book I can honestly say I liked or enjoyed reading, but I also can't be sorry that I read it. Sapphire took me a on a journey and at the end I wasn't quite the same as when I started. For a short period of time, I lived another life. I inhabited the world of a deeply flawed and broken young man who was both beautiful and horrible. The Kid challenged me both as a reader and as person. That's what good literature does -- it transports us. It changes us. I think everyone who reads The Kid will leave it a slightly different person than when they started.
More from entertainment