Riot Baby is one of those books that you really cannot talk about. And yet, of course, you must. But if you do, you tell the whole story. It is raw. It is gritty. It is gut wrenching. But if you do not, people will miss out on something…… maybe special; maybe horrible; maybe great; maybe…. I will leave it up to you to decide.
As you follow Ella and Kev through South Central, Harlem, Rikers Island and back to Watts, Tochi Onyebuchi will make you cry. Tochi Onyebuchi will make you laugh. Tochi Onyebuchi will make you angry. Tochi Onyebuchi will make you hopeful. Tochi Onyebuchi will give you a whole lot of fudging feelings (and I didn’t say fudging).
Current events aside, this is a book about a family trying. Trying to live. Trying to love. Trying to understand themselves and each other. But because of current events, it is a whole lot more. Originally out in January of this year, Onyebuchi had a lot of material to work with. And now we have a lot more to think about because of recent events. Not even 200 pages long and there is a lot packed in there. This is a not a quick read, it is not a one time read. I am writing this review on a one time reading; therefore, I will not say much more than you are in for one Hell of a ride. You will see the police, current events unfolding, the past and the present. Ella’s “Thing” can be a metaphor for her anger, the destruction around her, the hate, the fear. Or you can literally take it as well. Kev was born during the aftermath of Rodney King’s beating. And that reflects his life. He is an interesting mix of pain, goodness and circumstances (some beyond his control, others he has some control over).
To say anything more is to give the book away. There is a science fiction element but set against and all too real backdrop. It could be a 14 and up crossover but meant for a mature reader. And, if anyone has read this book, please let me know your take on the ending. I am still digesting it.