Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [review]

DNF review of The Kid by Sapphire

The Kid by Sapphire is a novel I really should have liked. I read and reviewed Push on the blog last year (click to read my review) and while I can't say that I loved the book, I definitely understood the point and was left with an overall feeling of purpose. The Kid, however, did not leave me feeling any of that. I am not going to give this an official review, since I didn't actually finish reading it, but I am going to leave you with my thoughts and explain why this was a book I found myself unable to complete.

Note — this review is going to contain spoilers for the first half of the book. I really struggle with not finishing books. I read quickly so it's usually not a big deal to push through a book I'm not loving. So for me to have really put this one down, I feel like I owe a thorough explanation. You have been warned.

The thing is, I tried. Really I did. I had every intention of finishing the book, even after I realized I wasn't enjoying it. In all honesty, if this hadn't been a review book I probably would have made the DNF decision somewhere between pages 5 and 50. I knew that early that this wasn't going to be a book I'd enjoy. But, because this is a review book and I felt terrible not finishing I ended up making it to page 207 before finally admitting defeat and admitting that I just... wasn't going to be able to do it. I intend to identify the scene that finally pushed me over the edge, but I want to talk a little more about the book before I do that.

One of my main complaints in my review of Push is what I felt to be an extreme level of graphic content. I said, "Although it is important for the direction of the story that we understand Precious has been abused both sexually and emotionally, I did not then, and do not now feel that the level of description was necessary. Some of the specific details the author included seemed in place merely for the shock and horror value." That feeling is amplified in The Kid. Extremely amplified. I honestly feel like Sapphire sat down and asked herself about all the hard, rough, graphic and extreme stuff she could possibly add to a story like this and then added it into the story. -Just add graphic rape, stir in a bit of cussing and VIOLA! Instant edge.

The story is told by Abdul (also called J.J.), Precious's son. And the narrative is incredibly difficult to follow. I don't know if that's because Sapphire is female and unsure how to write an authentic young boy character (something I strongly suspect...) or where it is merely her writing style. But I felt such a strong detachment and disconnect from the story I found myself completely unable to care about the story or Abdul. Even in the very beginning of the story, before we realize that Abdul is going to pass along the abuse he receives while in the system, I didn't care about him. And for serious — Who can't care about a nine year old boy?! Abdul has all these strange and very violent thoughts, where he screams in his mind things like Crazy Ass Roach Bitch and F*cking Bitch and on and on. And I wasn't always sure if he's only thinking these things or when they actually cross over into actual speech or actions. This is especially noticeable in the 13 year old section, but is also present in the beginning, when he's only nine. So, the story starts the day of him mother's funeral and Abdul is sent into the system. A boy in his first foster home rapes and severely beats him, landing him in the hospital for 3 weeks. They then decide to send him to a Catholic orphanage where two of the priests rape him on a regular basis. So, J.J. decides to return the favor and he rapes other boys in the orphanage. After being kicked out of the orphanage, for reasons that are a bit sketchy (unreliable narrator and as mentioned before, very awkward and detached narration) Abdul/J.J. is sent to live with the great-grandmother who should have been taking care of him for the last 4 years. But the priest at the orphanage decided he liked Abdul and wanted to keep him close. (barf)

This is where I finally accepted that this book wasn't for me, that I was going to have to call it quits on the story because I just couldn't stomach it or believe it anymore. I finally gave it up after listening to page after page after page after page of his great-grandmother describing, in graphic detail to a 13 year old boy how she had been raped at the age of ten, gave birth to his grandmother, ran away from home and ended up living and working in a whore house. Graphic detail. To a 13 year old. I was disturbed but still pushing through... And then — In the middle of this disturbing and inappropriate story from great-grandma, Abdul decides he is going to teach her a lesson, he decides he's going to really 'show' her. So he pulls his pants off and proceeds to masturbate to the point of orgasm while g-gma is still talking. He's 13 and he thinks that jacking off in front of his grandma is a good idea... Really? Really?! SERIOUSLY?!

I read a few pages past this but just couldn't do it anymore. I get that he's had a crappy life. Really, I do. I get that his life experiences are so far from mine that I can't possibly understand what he's gone through or what he feels. But I also felt that Sapphire failed her job as a writer, because she didn't write the book in a way that allowed me to understand or sympathize with Abdul. I was never able to understand his thoughts, his motives, anything. And I never cared to either.

Normally, in a book like this, I can find something good to say about the story. And I tried, really I did. I don't mind telling you what I don't like about a book, but I really like having something positive to say about the book as well. But, I have nothing. I was unable to find a single redeeming quality. I can't even say that the author's motives were pure or acceptable, because I can't figure out what they were.

And, I'm worried that given the nature of the book, given the subject matter this tries to tackle that people are going to be hesitant to say anything bad about it. I can see it. And I know that there are some people out there who will genuinely like this book. I get that. I know that not every book is for every reader. But I also believe that this book is going to be getting more praise than it deserves because no one wants to say something bad about a book like this. But you know what, there are great books out there that handle the topic of abuse. Great writers that manage to give credibility to their characters, their situations and their reactions, whether positive or not. In my opinion, Sapphire is not one of them.

Maybe some of you will be interested in this book. Maybe you will be better able to make sense of the jumbled and confused mess that is Abdul's narration. If so, I'd love to hear from you, love to hear what you think. But for the most part, this is not a book I would ever recommend.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was made available to me through TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.