The making of Sapphireâ€™s debut novel â€œPush,â€ which was made into the Academy Award-winning film â€œPrecious,â€ sparked new debates about illiteracy, poverty and disease in America.
But â€œPushâ€ takes place in the early 80s, and we live in the 21st century. This is where â€œThe Kidâ€ steps in to fill the gaps.
â€œPushâ€ focuses on the story of Precious Jones, an illiterate Harlem teenager with abusive parents and a distaste for the system. When a social worker discovers her need, Precious is enrolled in a school to learn to read, and she is given a second chance despite the two children and HIV her father gave her.
Preciousâ€™s first child, Mongo, has Down syndrome and is quickly taken away. Her second child, Abdul, is a normal, healthy boy. â€œThe Kidâ€ is Abdulâ€™s story.
â€œThe Kidâ€ opens on the day of Preciousâ€™s funeral, where we see the event through the very confused 9-year-old Abdulâ€™s eyes. The novel then follows Abdul to adolescence and eventually to adulthood, where we see him blossom into an artist.
This novel is not for the faint of heart. Poverty, sexual abuse and violence permeate each chapter, not to mention an overabundance of swearing. The story is written as Abdulâ€™s stream of consciousness; so, the thoughts and feelings of other characters are not always clear.
By the same token, Abdul often daydreams, and it takes some serious rereading to understand which events have happened and which have not.
While the writing style is full of harsh swearing and bad grammar, itâ€™s evident that Abdul is intelligent, confident and loves to learn. He makes references to Shakespeare and expresses eagerness to go to school.
Possibly most surprising is Abdulâ€™s attitude towards art. Abdul loves to dance and never expresses embarrassment or second-guesses his love of dance as too feminine or silly. Instead he pursues it with dedication and heart.
Abdul cannot be called the angel that Precious was made out to be, however. He often has violent fantasies and tendencies, and his worldview is more selfish, more of a â€œWhy me?â€ attitude.
When all is said and done, itâ€™s a great story and a great companion to â€œPush.â€ It doesnâ€™t deliver quite the impact of its predecessor, but â€œThe Kidâ€ can definitely hold its own in the literary arena.
Book reviewer Blair Carpenter can be reached at email@example.com.