Come and Get It is the story of an RA and the consequences of her actions related to privacy and safety; the book dabbles in issues of race, class, sexual identity, and loyalty, yet I found myself wanting more of an exploration of each of these aspects.
In Kiley Reid's new novel Come and Get It, the author of Such a Fun Age offers a story set in 2017 at the University of Arkansas. Millie is an experienced RA coping with students' concerns large and small. She's got her sights set on graduating and settling down with a job and a house of her own.
She's a black young woman supporting residents who are largely white, and Reid shows widespread entitled behavior but sets them in contrast to situations in which students are struggling to get by.
Then Millie is offered an unusual opportunity to help a journalist and visiting professor by offering clandestine access to the private conversations of the students in her dorm.
Neither allowing such access nor the nominal payments she receives for her help seem questionable to Millie, although I have to think that the RA manual that she must be deeply familiar with--and likely also at least one aspect of one of her college courses?--must have outlined some basic ideas of privacy, responsibility, and culpability.
It seemed very odd that Millie--who is so focused on goals, doing her duty, behaving in a manner that's beyond reproach, and keeping her head down--didn't feel squirrelly about this setup, and that she didn't ever question the ethics or appropriateness of it.
I could imagine a story scenario in which Millie compromised her morals as the situation bloated into the complications that it does: of emotional and romantic concerns, minor class and race clashes, and worries about money and the security of her future. Or that her shift in feelings of responsibility could be part of her cutting loose in areas of her personal life. But instead, the increasingly questionable activities and compromises that Millie agrees to as the story progresses are just versions of what she was willing to go along with--without asking any questions--from the very first. Her character is presented as naïve, but I felt as though she would have paused for a moment during one of her many opportunities to do so and considered the way in which the scenario might impact her important plans.
Meanwhile the students under Millie's watch in the dorm are developing young-feeling (dirty dishes in the common area; spreading hurtful gossip; excluding others from invitations) yet impactful interpersonal conflicts, and Millie's growing interest in the professor distracts her so that she misses all of them, as well as their potential implications.
After an unlikely moment of tragedy upends everything, each character seems to misinterpret it and also to react in unintentionally unhelpful ways (meanwhile the truth of the situation is not revealed by the one person who could do so). Millie is in danger of losing everything, and this culminating situation of neglectful, inept damage that is ultimately inflicted by practically every character seems to embody the ignorance and incompetence displayed by almost everyone in the book.
The banter between Millie's two RA friends was a highlight, yet felt somewhat extraneous to the story. I was taken with how their friendship with Millie was ultimately threatened not by the realities of the secrets Millie was keeping, but by the fact that she kept secret her deepest desires and dreams from those she was meant to trust.
The title of the book sets a tone that feels fast-paced, or sassy, or spirited. The tone of the book felt more measured than this, and while Reid flirts with Big Issues (race, class, exploring sexuality) in the story Come and Get It, for me, the book never fully dives into exploring them, and I felt myself wanting more.
I received a prepublication edition of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam.
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Kiley Reid is also the author of Such a Fun Age, Complexity, and George Washington's Teeth.