Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The first big breakout book of 2020 - Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid

One of the things that has changed about publishing is how much more in advance books are staged if the publisher is hoping for a breakout. We already have a table up promoting Christina Clancy's The Second Home, suggesting preorders for the holidays, and the solicitation for quotes came much earlier than that. Her book, by the way, is out June 2, 2020 - we'll have the first of several Milwaukee-area events at Boswell on launch day.

Similarly, the solicitation for Kiley Reid's Such a Fun Age began last spring. The book was edited by Sally Kim, who shepherded Chloe Benjamin's The Immortalists to publication, and like that book, Such a Fun Age made the Book Expo buzz panel. By the time I read the book in fall, just before Reid did a meet-the-author dinner in Chicago, the line of booksellers championing this debut novel stretched out the door and around the block. It's the number one Indie Next rec for January 2020. We didn't get on the tour, but if your city did, lucky you. Here's more

It's also the new Reese Witherspoon book club pick and I'm only sad because the Reese seal sort of mars what is an absolutely fantastic jacket. Putnam knew they had a winner and made matching tote bags, something they also did with Benjamin's book. That blue! I think it's actually pretty close to the Pantone color of the year, classic blue, and it really does look great with black. I really should have worn my almost completely matching blue pants today, but instead I just have my button.

Marketing, marketing, marketing. But the thing about Such a Fun Age is that the there is there. It's really hard not to fall in love with this book, the story of a young black woman who takes a job babysitting for a wealthy, not-much-older white woman in Philadelphia.  Here's my rec:

"Emira finds that her friends are passing her by in the growing up department, but she’s enjoying babysitting (not even nannying!) for professional influencer Alix (née Alex) Chamberlain and has become particularly attached to daughter Briar. An uncomfortable grocery-store incident with racist overtones seems likely to blow up, but Emira really wants to put this behind her and convinces bystander Kelley, who recorded the incident on his phone, to not release it. When Emira and Kelley meet again, they start dating (even though she doesn’t usually date white guys), but what Emira doesn’t know is that Alix and Kelley have a past that ended poorly and they each have very different takes on it. With a story that bounces between the three viewpoints, Kiley Reed’s debut novel features a wonderfully engaging and wiser-than-she-thinks-she-is heroine, and is alternatingly inspired, infuriating, hilarious, and thought-provoking, touching on race, class, gender, friendship, dating, and motherhood, and filled with a whole mess of bad advice from everyone concerned. Lots of bad advice!"

Entertainment Weekly writes: "Kiley Reid has written the most provocative page-turner of the year." Real Simple: "This piercing social commentary on race and class manages to be, well, such a fun book to read." Vogue: "Fun is the operative word in Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid’s delectably discomfiting debut. The buzzed-about novel takes a thoroughly modern approach to the timeless upstairs-downstairs trope." And the list goes on and on.

It's a book that is of the moment that also transcends the moment. I was noticing how many books I've read this year that had nanny/babysitting elements, from Girl in the Rearview Mirror, by Kelsey Rae Dimberg (a big local hit at Boswell - nanny goes psychological suspense) to the NYT bestseller Nothing to See Here, from Kevin Wilson (nanny goes speculative, a little).  It's a new age of nanny diaries, all very different from Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus's 2012 hit. It's now a $22.99 POD book so I'm not linking to it.

Critics have praised Reid's channeling of lots of different voices, but Emira steals the show. I really liked the switching around because sometimes I read a first-person narrative where I get through a good chunk of the book, I think I need a breather. Can't someone else talk? That's not the case for Such a Fun Age. I so enjoyed this book- it's on my rec shelf, and I'm buying our first copy. Hope to sell many more!

Coming next - Jeanine Cummins's American Dirt is out on January 21.

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