I won this book on NetGalley on 1 November 2019 and when I was looking for an interesting novel to read, this jumped out at me. It was all that I expected and more. I understand that this is Reid’s first novel and it’s astoundingly good and self-assured for a debut. I will certainly look out for more by this author.

Alix is the privileged daughter of parents who came into sudden wealth, part of a white elite and now a beautifully skewered influencer who is worried her influence will wane when she leaves New York for Philadelphia, trying to maintain a perception of living in the big city and full of anxiety. Kelley is a right-on white guy whose friends are mostly black and who tries to help Emira, a black babysitter when she’s challenged by store security while watching her charge, Briar, in a fancy grocery store, shouting out her rights to her. And why is Emira there late at night with Briar? Because Alix’s house has been attacked after her husband the news anchor has been ‘accidentally’ racist on TV and she’s called in a favour with Emira to get the toddler out of the house.

That’s the basics we see in the first chapter. And I mention the races of these characters because that’s what matters here and what drives the story. But mix in Emira being well able to stand up for herself and very conscious of what’s going on, someone who doesn’t particularly want to be helped, and also doesn’t need to be told how to see the other people around her, but also a drifting Milennial who doesn’t have the socioeconomic safety net that everyone else mentioned has. Then add in a video from the store which will of course surface eventually, and some more back history about Alix and Kelley, and you’ve got a potent intersection of race, gender and class where no one quite acts in the way they’re expected to.

I loved Emira and her band of friends, and also loved the detail that she’s a part-time transcriber – it’s rare to see my profession in novels! I also loved that the author was not afraid to make her readers feel uncomfortable. Do I raise ‘issues’ clumsily with only the people who are ‘othered’ by society and experience these issues, or treat them differently, more deferentially? Hm. I do watch my privilege but I need to keep an eye out. I would also love to read what a young black woman thinks of this novel, as I’m coming from a position nearer Alix’s in terms of race and age (well, I’m way older than her) but different perspectives on this novel would be fascinating.

Although this all sounds terribly worthy, it also manages to be funny, as well as incredibly readable – I literally couldn’t put it down at points. It tells us interesting things about society and race in America, and about transactional relationships everywhere (I know I was hopeless at having a cleaner because I was too probably patronisingly interested in her different life). I don’t think it’s what Reid describes about the video of Emira, “a video about racism that you could watch without seeing any blood or ruining your day” – it’s a modern and fun novel with a razor-sharp observational eye that makes you think about the state of the world.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for giving me access to this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “Such a Fun Age” is published on 7 January 2020.