I’ve said it here before, and I’ll probably rave again – I’m a fantasy geek. I love escaping the here-and-now and experiencing the only-in-someone’s-wildest-imaginings. BUT. Every once and a while contemporary fiction punches me in the gut. In a good way, if you can picture that. Well, never mind, I can’t either. I meant to infer that there’s something so very raw and honest and mirror-like about it that you can’t help but be caught up, moved, and possibly even changed forever. Andrea Seigel’s novel The Kid Table was a bit like that for me. Or a lot. You decide.
It's there at every family event. A little smaller, collapsible, and decked out with paper napkins because you can't be trusted with the good ones. But you're stuck there. At the Kid Table. Because to them- to the adults- you're still a kid.
Ingrid Bell and her five teenage cousins are in exactly this situation. Never mind the fact that high school is almost over. They're still eating mac and cheese with a toddler. But what happens when the rules change? When Brianne, the oldest cousin, lands a seat at the Adult Table, the others are in shock. What does it take to graduate from the Kid Table?
Over the course of five family events, Ingrid and her cousins attempt to finish childhood and send the infamous table into retirement. But as Ingrid turns on the charm in order to manipulate her situation, the family starts questioning her motives. And when her first love comes in the form of first betrayal, Ingrid is forced to consider how she fits into this family and what it means to grow up.
First off, you should know that I’m from a large family of VERY close siblings. I mean there are five of us kids, and only six and a half years separating us in age. So there’s that parallel with the story already. I could picture Ingrid’s family (albeit extended, while mine is immediate) so clearly that it startled. I felt like I’d lived the scenes. The ones where one relative does that THING or someone else has THAT quirk – it was just real, you know? I discovered a very rare and authentic connection. With a fictional family.
And then there was the narrator, Ingrid – who discovered (for herself) what she was really like over the course of the book, and if she was okay with that. I identified with Ingrid's psyche, and not always the good things, either. The Kid Table was seriously eerie in parts, because I found myself in it. I was tempted to write to Ms. Seigel immediately after finishing the novel to demand to know how she’d gotten in my head. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling necessarily, but it was true.
As for the novel on its own merit, it’s about coming of age/adulthood. In other words, it’s a universal story. It has real-seeming characters, making real mistakes, on a very real stage. I think it will appeal to a lot of young adults, and probably even more so to the older readers of young adult fiction – those of us a couple of years on, who are still wondering faintly if we did it right? If we’re there. Adults. Or wherever it is that we’re supposed to be. I really enjoyed The Kid Table. Go read it, find bits of yourself in it or perhaps bits of others. But I hope you’ll find that it’s as true and beautiful (in a hard-as-diamond sort of way) as I did.
“This book is the real thing—hilarious, original, and as true as your mother thinking your boyfriend's too good for you. Boy do I wish I'd written it.”
—Meg Rosoff, author of the Michael L. Printz award winner How I Live Now
Recommended for: older teens, anyone with a large family or a treasure trove of stories from family gatherings, fans of contemporary young adult novels, and those looking for honest fiction.