Here’s the quick synopsis and chapter by chapter summary for Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.
Table of Contents
Quick Plot Synopsis
For a non-spoiler version of the plot summary, see The Bibliofile’s review of Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid.
In Part I, Emira Tucker is 25 and works for Alix and Peter Chamberlain as a part-time babysitter, taking care of their young daughters Briar (3) and baby Catherine. Alix is a self-empowerment and career coach, while Peter is a newscaster. Emira is asked to take Briar to the supermarket late at night after the Chamberlain’s house is egged as a result of a (arguably racist) comment that Peter made on the news.
Emira (who is black) gets hassled by a security guard after another customer suspects her of having kidnapped Briar. The incident gets tense until Emira calls Peter, who comes in to clear things up. Afterwards, Kelley Copeland (32, white male) approaches Emira to let her know he recorded the incident. Emira gets the video from him, but tells him she doesn’t want to pursue anything and asks him to delete it. Following the incident, Alix feels bad and wants to get to know Emira better, while Emira decides she needs to find a new job. Meanwhile, Emira runs into Kelley again and they start dating.
In Part II, there’s a flashback to Alix telling her friends about her parents becoming wealthy when she was in junior high. Her name was originally “Alex Murphy”. They bought a huge, gaudy house. She started dating a guy (Kelley) and would write him letters. In one of them, she detailed when and where she wanted to lose her virginity to Kelley. The letter ends up in the hands of Robbie, a popular black kid in school, who teases her about it and jokingly shows up at her house with friends after Kelley and Alix have sex for the first time. In anger and embarrassment, Alix called the police. Robbie was arrested and had a small amount of cocaine on him. Kelley dumped Alix as a result and befriended Robbie. Alix changes her name to Alix and leaves the state for college.
Meanwhile Alix’s curiosity about Emira keeps increasing and she invites Emira and her new boyfriend over for Thanksgiving when both their plans gets derailed due to the weather.
In Part III, Emira and Kelley show up for Thanksgiving. Alix and Kelley recognize each other. After that, Alix and Kelley both soon tell Emira about their version of events. Alix claims that Kelley invaded her privacy by distributing her letter. Alix also stalks Kelley online and discovers that he only dates black women. Alix warns Emira that Kelley is just using and fetishizing her.
Kelley meanwhile tells Emira that he never got the letter Alix is talking about. He also says how Alix has always had black people as help, including Alix’s black nanny growing up. He tells Emira that she needs to quit, but Emira feels that Kelley is too presumptuous about understanding her point of view just because he had black friends.
In Part IV, Emira leaves her e-mail open at Alix’s house. Alix sees it, finds the supermarket video and distributes it. Emira soon finds out and blames Kelley. They break up, and Alix offers Emira her sympathy. Alix also offers her a full time job as their nanny with benefits. Emira gratefully accepts.
Additionally, Alix offers to have Emira on Laney and Peter’s show to do a segment about the video. Emira agrees, since it’s a chance for her to tell her side of the story. However, on that day, Zara overhears Alix admit that she was the one who distributed the video. Emira goes on the show, but at the last minute on air, she tells Alix that she’s not going to be working for her and that they should part ways.
In the end, Emira never speaks to Alix and Kelley again. We find out Kelley never did get the letter from Alix (it got jammed into Robbie’s locker which was next to his). She goes to work full time at her typist position, and after five weeks is promoted to an administrative assistant.
Emira Tucker, a 25-year-old baby-sitter, is out with her friends when she gets a call from Mrs. Chamberlain at 10:51 at night. There’s an emergency, and Mrs. Chamberlain wants her to please watch her daughter Briar, a young girl, for a bit. Emira and her friend Zara take Briar to the supermarket nearby, and Zara leaves.
At the store, Emira (who is black) gets stopped by a security guard after another customer notes that Briar is not with her mother. Emira keeps insisting that she’s the baby-sitter, but the guard is concerned because Emira is dressed in “going out” clothes and had a few drinks that night (which she disclosed to Mrs. Chamberlain). It turns into a scene, until Emira finally calls Briar’s father (who is white). He jogs over and chews out the guard.
A concerned young white guy, Kelley Copeland, in a Penn State sweater offers her a recording he made of the interaction. He e-mails it to her, against Emira’s protestations that she isn’t interested in pursuing it. At home, Emira tries to laugh it off, but ends up crying.
Alix and Peter Chamberlain met when Alix was 25, he 33. Alix does cover letter and interview-prep workshops, focusing on female empowerment (branded as LetHer Speak). She’s in the process of writing a book. Peter is a journalist-turned-newscaster. Briar (nearly 3) was their first child and Catherine is the baby. They had been living in New York, but moved to Philadelphia for cheaper real estate.
The morning they called Emira in a panic, Peter got himself into some hot water. He did a segment on creative ways high school students are asking each other to homecoming, and he suggesting on-air that a black student needed to ask the girl’s father first (but not any of the other boys). There was an immediate backlash, calling Peter a racist. They called Emira that night after one of their windows was broken by kids egging their house.
Emira grew up in Sewell Bridge, Maryland. Her father owned a bee store and her mother was a book binder. Her brother Alfie is a barista, and her sister Justyne is a seamstress and costumer. Emira was the first in her family to graduate from a 4-year college. She attended Temple, where she met her best friend and now roommate, Zara. After college, Emira ended up babysitting because she wasn’t sure what she really wanted to do yet. She also works as a typist, doing transcription work, part time as well. After the supermarket incident, she decides that she really needs to find a new job.
The next morning, Alix texts her female friends (Rachel, Jodi, and Tamra) asking to do a group chat. Jodi is a children’s casting director with two children, ages four and one. Rachel is Jewish and Japanese, has a 5-year-old son and manages a firm that designs book covers. Tamra is the principal of a private school in Manhattan. She has two girls (2 and a half and 4).
Alix is worried Emira will quit over the supermarket incident. She’s also worried Emira will hear about Peter’s incident at some point. The women give her advice on what to say to Emira about it (don’t get emotional, offer whatever support she needs). Emira doesn’t seem to want to chat about and later, while helping out at Briar’s 3rd birthday party, she says she doesn’t want to pursue any type of legal action. Emira brings a goldfish as a gift for Briar and is helpful at the party, and Alix feels very grateful.
Emira starts looking for jobs, but at the same time Alix starts genuinely trying to get to know Emira as a person. Alix also gives Emira and extra two weeks salary as a bonus for the difficult night.
On the subway, Emira runs into Kelley. She’s on her way to meet her friends (Zara, Shaunie and Josefa) at Lucas (a bar), and Kelley agrees to meet her there. He shows up later with four friends, who are all black. Emira and Kelley eventually go back to his place and hook up. There’s a framed blueprint of Kelley’s hometown, Allentown, Pennsylvania, on the wall. (The book hints that Kelley and Alix have some type of history from a long time ago.)
It’s now been a month since the supermarket incident. Alix learns from the lockscreen on Emira’s phone that Emira has started dating someone, saved on her phone under the name “Kenan&Kel“. Alix offers Emira a glass of wine and coaxes out of her that she’s been dating a new guy and they’ve been out four times.
Kelley is a 32-year-old coder. He makes scheduling interfaces for gyms, yoga studios, etc. Emira and Kelley meet up with friends. They starting chatting about exes and Kelley mentions a wealthy girlfriend he had in high school.
When Kelley tells a story about a racist guy, he quotes the man using the word “n—-r” (without using the euphemism), and Emira feels distinctively uncomfortable, but doesn’t say anything.
The book flashes back to a scene of Alix and her friends sharing their most embarrassing moment. Alix tells the story about why she ended up changing her name. It was originally Alex Murphy. When she was in junior high, her parents inherited around $900,000 after her grandparents passed away. Then, the funeral home messed up and accidentally cremated the bodies, so parents sued and won even more money. Overnight, Alix’s life was transformed, but her parents became very, very tacky. They bought a huge, gated plantation-style home.
Alex then explains that in her senior year she started dating her first boyfriend, Kelley Copeland. She used to like to write him letters, to the tune of one a week. One of them was about her wanting Kelley to take her virginity, telling Kelley when, where (her house) and what time.
Kelley’s friend Robbie Cormier ended up with the letter (Kelley claims he never got it). After Alix loses her virginity, Robbie shows up with a group of friends to her house to tease her. Alix calls the police out of anger and embarrassment. Robbie, who is black and very popular, also had a small amount of cocaine on him. Robbie is arrested and loses his scholarship. As a result, Alix became a social pariah. People saw her as the trashy girl in the huge house that got Robbie arrested. Kelley took Robbie’s side and broke up with Alix the Monday afterwards (the whole ordeal raised Kelley’s social status since he became good friends with Robbie). Alix eventually decided to go to NYU instead of Penn State in order to leave Pennslyvania altogether.
Spoons Chamberlain, the goldfish Emira had bought for Briar, dies on October 30. Alix asks Emira to pick up another one on the way over, but Emira and Briar would then end up being late to Briar’s ballet class Halloween Party. Alix can’t help because she’s supposed to meet with Laney Thacker, Peter’s co-anchor, a woman who (to Alix’s annoyance) desperately wants to befriend her.
Alix tells Emira to just skip the party, but doesn’t realize until later (finds out through Emira’s cellphone lockscreen) that it involved a performance that Briar and Emira had rehearsed a lot for. Alix apologies to Emira for it later.
Emira meets with her friends to celebrate Shaunie’s new job as an associate marketing specialist at Sony Philadelphia. The pay is 52K a year, which makes Emira think about the low pay for her babysitting gig. Emira thinks about how she disagrees with Alix’s decision not to just tell Briar about the goldfish, and she judges her for being mean to Laney Thacker, who is dorky but nice. Emira also thinks that Briar is starting to understand how Alix doesn’t make time for her.
Alix is stressed, knowing that something is off with Emira. She feels self-conscious about her wealth and finds herself wondering what to say to impress or relate to Emira. She’s also noticed that Emira has been pulling away from her attempts to get to know her.
When Emira’s flight home for Thanksgiving gets cancelled, Alix invites her to eat with them instead. Emira is reluctant at first, but with no alternatives, she accepts. Emira asks if she can bring her boyfriend, and Alix is delighted to have them.
On Thanksgiving, Emira and Kelley show up to the Chamberlain house. Alix answers the door, and it’s clear Kelley and Alix recognize each other immediately.
After the initial shock wears off, Alix invites Kelley and Emira into the house and introduces them to her friends (Jodi, Rachel and Tamra). Kelley and Peter meet, too.
Alix instantly feels insecure about her home and her body. Alix pulls her friends aside and tells them that Kelley is the same guy from her story (her first boyfriend) that she’d told them about. They tell her just to act like they know each other from high school and not to say anything about the rest of it.
Kelley tries to pull Emira aside, but she gets dragged away by Tamra who is trying to talk to her for some reason. Finally, Kelley texts her about his relationship with Alix and indicates how awkward this is for him (“I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE ANYMORE” — in reference to a joke they’d previously made.)
Alix thinks about how this seems like the image of the perfect Thanksgiving if it weren’t for Kelley sitting at her table, dating her sitter. Peter asks Kelley and Emira how they met, and in turn Emira asks about how Peter and Alix. Alix feels embarrassed at the story about her coming on to Peter at a bar. Peter then makes a toast to all the women at the table.
During the dinner, Tamra is asking somewhat intrusive questions about Emira’s goals in life, which she doesn’t quite know how to answer. Meanwhile, Emira can tell something is wrong with Briar. Suddenly, Briar starts to gag.
Alix is remembering how infatuated she was with Kelley when she watches as Emira jumps up to help Briar. She realizes her own sense of possessiveness when Kelley places his hands on Emira’s hips.
Emira whisks Briar off upstairs and comforts her. After dinner, Kelley and Emira go to a bar. Emira still doesn’t think this situation is a big deal, but Kelley insists that Alix is a bad person and that Emira shouldn’t work for her. Kelley tells her about how Alix called the police on a bunch of black kids and how it changed his friend Robbie’s life.
Emira and Kelley get into an argument because Kelley insists that Emira quit. Emira is attached to Briar, and she also doesn’t think Kelley really understands her perspective. She tells Kelley that she understands that he has black friends and is dating a black girl, but that still doesn’t mean that he understands her perspective. It’s easy for him to tell her to take a stand about the grocery store thing or Alix, but in both situations things would stay the same for them and her life would change.
They talk things out, and make up.
The next morning, Alix is preoccupied with stalking Kelley online, looking through his Instagram, Linkedin, Venmo or anything else she can find. Even now, Alix still feels that Kelley used her to boost his own social status, and perhaps he was doing the same with Emira. He probably liked telling that supermarket story, showing what a hero he was. She discovers from his Instagram that he only dates black women.
Later, Alix talks this over with her friends. Tamra (who’s black) agrees that it’s gross, and that it seems like some type of fetish. She notes that the guys who do it often see black women as being all the same and themselves as some type of martyr, that they’re willing to date black women.
Alix insists that her anger has to do with wanting to protect Emira, and nothing to do with the fact that she once dated Kelley. However, when Jodi mentions that Kelley’s feelings for Emira seemed genuine, Alix has a hard time hearing it.
Tamra thinks Emira needs Alix to help guide her, since it’s clear she has no idea what she wants or how to get it. They also talk about Alix’s own frustrations over her career being less exciting now that she’s no longer in New York and she’s had a baby. Tamra encourages Alix to go teach a class in the city once or twice a week.
On Monday, Alix is out of town, so Emira takes Briar out for a day of fun. She thinks about how much she genuinely loves caring for Briar.
Alix returns from New York determined to talk to Emira. They have a short conversation, but Emira essentially brushes off the idea that Kelley made mistakes or was weird about race when Alix knew him. Emira notes that it was a long time ago and acknowledges that most people including herself have needed to change and grow.
Dissatisfied, Alix goes and finds Kelley who is on his lunch break. Alex tells Kelley that she’s there because she’s concerned about Emira. She accuses him of not respecting her privacy in high school and fetishizing black people in general.
Kelley is angry, and says that as far as she is concerned, he dumped her and that’s it. Then he says that he is in love with Emira and the fact that he thought the black kids in high school were cooler is totally separate from that. Kelley continues to insist he never got her letter, and Alix still refuses to believe him. The conversation ends with Alix repeating that Emira is like family to them, but Kelley interrupting to mention that Alix is making Emira work on her birthday.
When Alix goes home, her editor has been emailing her asking for updates on her progress. Alix then realizes she had accidentally left the baby all alone when she left the house. Then she notices that Emira’s e-mail was left open on her computer. Alix looks up Kelley’s name, sees the one e-mail they exchanged (when Kelley sent her the supermarket video) and secretly e-mails it to herself. Then, she calls Laney Thacker.
As Emira, her friends and Kelley are partying to celebrate her 26th birthday, her friends drag her into the bathroom. They tell her that the supermarket video of her has been shared online. Her friends then all go out and accuse Kelley of sharing it against Emira’s wishes, but he denies it. However, Zara checks his phone and sees that it’s still in his “sent” folder. Emira stalks off against Kelley’s protests.
Alix goes to visit Emira at her apartment and brings Briar along. Emira is worried that Alix will be angry about her being coarse and screaming on camera with Briar there, but Alix tells her it is okay. Instead, Alix offers to make her full time so that Alix can teach her class in New York. Emira would finally have health insurance and paid vacation, etc. Emira is happy and she accepts the offer.
Alix also says she has an idea for how to deal with the video.
Emira thinks about how Thanksgiving didn’t make her feel much closer to the Chamberlains, but have a real contract with benefits certainly did. She shows up to the Chamberlains house where they’ve planned to do a segment on Emira’s incident on Peter and Laney’s show.
However, Zara overhears Alix implying that Alix was the one who shared the video. Zara tells Emira about it. She advises Emira to quit this job and work as a typist instead. Emira calls Beverly, the woman who manages her at the typing job (she works for the Green Party), and they do a quick negotiation so that Emira can have benefits.
The TV segment starts and Alix feels great about it. Emira walks on and Laney goes through the whole situation with her, plus Alix and Peter. Finally, Laney asks if Emira has anything to add, and Emira adds that she isn’t planning to continue working for them. She uses the line that is noticeably similar to the one Kelley used when he dumped Alix (“I just think it would be best if we went our separate ways and . . . that those paths never like . . . came back together.”)
Emira says a quick good-bye to Briar, but before she can leave Alix starts screaming at her. Emira doesn’t say much, but tells Alix that she needs to act like she likes Briar before Briar gets old enough to star noticing. Then, Emira leaves.
The book flashes back to Alix in high school. As she cleans out her locker, it becomes clear that her letter most likely (the one about losing her virginity) got jammed into Robbie’s locker (which was next to Kelley’s) by mistake. Kelley probably never received it.
Still, Alix decides it’s mentally easier to keep blaming Kelley and being angry with him than being angry with herself, and she decides in her mind to maintain the narrative that Kelley was the one who ruined her senior year.
Emira only ends up working as a typist for the Green Party for five weeks. She soon becomes an administrative assistant. Emira never contacts Kelley again, realizing that he still has too much to learn. Emira also doesn’t speak to Alix again, though she spots her out with her children one day, and Emira misses Briar.