The Kid Table, by Andrea Seigel

kidtableI got an ARC of this book at BEA. My copy doesn’t have any cover art, but instead lists the three rules for the kid table:

1. You’re a kid until the adults say you’re not.* You can drive, but you still have to sit with a toddler.
2. Know your role: If the family thinks you’re rebellious, rebel.
3. What happens at the kid table stays at the kid table. Talking to a cousin is like talking to a priest.

*The definition of kid does not have to be equal or fair; cousins may be upgraded to the adult table at any time.

Oh my. When I read this opener, I immediately started laughing. This is my family. If you replace the word “adult” with “grownup,” this could be my family. I knew I had to read this and was so happy to come across it at BEA.

The book opens with an image of a very complicated family tree, the notes on which made me laugh even more.

I grew up visiting my mom’s side of the family a lot. There were eleven cousins altogether (well, nine + two step-cousins), and we each had a role. Byron was the cynic. Jen was the peacemaker. John was the athlete. Brandy was the popular one. Jacob was the rebel. Nathan was the quiet one. I was the bold one (ie I wasn’t afraid to walk across Kmart holding the bra I was going to buy). Becky was the weird one. William, Aaren, and Jocelyn were all younger than us and we considered them the “junior” cousins, the kid table within the kid table, if you will. William, at that time, was quite the crybaby (sorry William!) and both Aaren and Joc were only interested in playing games where they got to be princesses.

In my family, you are a kid until you have kids of your own (or until you should have kids and are letting the family down). I remember being twenty years old and having one of my aunts tell me I should give up my chair so a grownup could sit down. We had movies screened for us before we were allowed to watch them – PG-13 movies, mind you – when most of us were in college. This was considered normal in my family.

My family is big. It’s wacky. It’s quirky. It’s thick with family politics. Most people look at us and think something’s wrong with us. And I absolutely love us. We are awesome. My cousins are more a part of me than I am. They were my lifeline growing up, my best friends, my confidants. My family. We’re the epitome of functional dysfunction.

Ingrid’s family is the same way, which is why I loved this book so much. I can’t say if this book would appeal to people who don’t have the extended family experience. My husband, for instance, only met his extended family a few times in his life. He doesn’t even know how many cousins he has, much less their names or ages. My big old crazy family intimidates him. I, on the other hand, got together with my mom’s side of the family quite often, sometimes on a weekly basis, growing up. I know my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents the same as I know my siblings and parents. The concept behind The Kid Table boggles my husband’s mind, but for me and for those people who know and love all their wacky, crazy extended family, this book is for us!!

It’s funny. It’s accurate. It strips family right down to the bones and shows both the good and bad sides. It’s got a wonderful plot that twists and turns. Plus, there’s lots and lots of family drama! Family crisis! Family rumors! A big jumbled mess of humanity stuck to each other by blood. Or by marriage. Or by…well, it can get complicated.

All the cousins have their role. There’s Katie, the toddler princess girl. Cricket, the anxious but caustic one. Dom, the purposely flamingly gay cousin. Micah, who gets progressively more naked at each family event. Brianne, the smart one. Autumn, the “mom” of the group. And Ingrid, the main character, the easy-going one who, because of her easy-going-ness, is accused of being a budding psychopath by a jealous and/or confused cousin. Throw all these guys together, with all their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and more, and it’s a recipe for disaster, especially when an outsider suddenly pushes his way into the family.

I can’t praise this book enough. It was fantastic, one of my favorites of the year. I showed the cover and Ingrid’s family tree to my cousin Jen and we both giggled away. Jen agreed with me – Seigel got those rules down right! I will definitely be encouraging all my cousins to read this. While we’re sitting at the kid table.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2010, Prose, Young Adult and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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