Such A Fun Age is not such a fun book. I failed to see the relevance of the title at all unless it was supposed to be sarcastic. But just because it wasn’t fun didn’t mean it wasn’t packed with meaning and shocking turns — although slightly predictable.
The novel follows two female characters. Emira, a 25-year-old black woman, is working as a babysitter to raise Briar; the three-year-old white child of Alix. In one chapter you are shown the harsh reality of being a person of colour and low income and in the other, you are thrown into a world of ignorance and privilege.
Emira loves looking after Briar, and Briar probably loves Emira more than her mother. Briar isn’t the only one who loves Emira though. Alix has some infatuation with her. It’s never fully explained why she has this interest in Emira. Alix’s internal dialogue seems to suggest it is because she wants to help Emira, make her life better. But as the novel progresses it seems to be because she wants to look like a good person for helping a black person.
And there is Emira’s boyfriend — Alix’s ex. Both are obsessed with Emira for the wrong reasons. They are obsessed with her colour and what that could mean for them. Riley explores the difference between being anti-racist and fetishizing people of colour.
When reading I found it quite similar to The Help by Kathrine Stockett. A contemporary version if you like.
I did enjoy this book. The only thing I would say is that it was a little confusing and chaotic and times and not everything was explained fully. But like a lot of books released in the past couple of years, it is an integral part of literature that raises more awareness of the suffering and injustices people of colour experience.