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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

The Kid

The Kid is author Sapphire’s 2nd novel, following Push (Knopf, 1996). Today’s audiences know Push best as Precious, the 2009 film that was nominated for several Oscars. (The 2009 Vintage paperback reprint is actually titled Precious: based on the novel “Push”.)

The Kid is the story of what becomes of Precious’ son after she dies of AIDS. It is a powerful, painful story of sexual abuse, prostitution, rape and other violence leavened by a love of dance. Heavy material for teen readers, and I recommend that you read or skim this book yourself. As with most adult books with teen appeal, appropriateness depends upon its audience.

Two news items of interest. Apparently we should not expect a movie version, and NPR ran this interview with the author on July 6th.

SAPPHIRE. The Kid. 373p. Penguin. 2011. Tr $25.95. ISBN 978-1-59420-304-6. LC number unavailable.

The Kid

Adult/High School–This novel, the author’s follow-up to Push (Knopf, 1996), opens when “the kid” is nine years old and attending his mother’s funeral. After Precious dies, he’s put into foster care and immediately suffers physical abuse at the hands of another ward; sexual abuse soon follows as he goes to the Catholic orphanage where he receives an excellent education but is raped by the priests. He is in a dream state when he goes to the other boys at night, a state of power and joy as he repeats with them what has been done to him. JJ – as the kid is called at his point – has no sense of responsibility for or awareness of what he is doing. Completely and horrifically realistic, his voice is stream of consciousness–or unconsciousness as the case may be. It’s a jumble of fantasy, memory, justification, anger, and outrage. He tries to convince himself that his mother died in a car crash and his father in the war. He hates the “faggots” and he’s not one. He didn’t do anything. At 13, he is taken to his great-grandmother’s roach- and grease-filled house. Toosie has little interaction with him until, out of the blue, she tells her gruesome story, including her own rape that produced Mary (Precious’s mother), and Toosie’s subsequent life as a whore. JJ’s only positive outlet is dance, yet it is short lived as he struggles with identity, isolation, abuse and sexuality and finally has a breakdown. This intense and difficult book is for exceptional teens  – teens who love reading books such as Dostovesky’s Crime and Punishment or Morrison’s Beloved, and who need to know and understand more of Precious and her family’s world.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. amy cheney says:

    It was amazing to listen to the NPR interview. In and of itself it’s an excellent interview, but as a reviewer I was gratified to hear Sapphire talk about how the Kid is her Raskilnokov (Dostoevsky’s protagonist in Crime and Punishment). Like that book, this is brilliant as well as difficult to read because of it’s literary style.

    The book is groundbreaking and courageous. I believe it’s the first book that is literary and also unflinchingly looks at issues of abuse, neglect, legacies of history. I could be wrong about that.

    I work with youth who have experienced what the kid has gone through and I can tell you the thought process and behavior is extremely and chillingly accurate.

    It’s not an easy read – obviously, and I can’t say it’s like a favorite book or that I’m going to recommend it to a ton of people. I wanted to put it down many a time. But I kept going and I’m glad I did. This book is going to stay with me for the rest of my life. It is a classic, and belongs in every library.

    I can definitely see this being taught at the college level.