3.5 of 5 stars: I was really excited to read this and I'm glad I got the urge to pick it up this month. Glowing reviews and hype for this book abound and I do appreciate that Cole stepped outside of the genre she's "best known" for with When No One is Watching. That said, I don't think this is a thriller and I feel like the marketing did it a disservice by calling it that. For me, it lacked the pacing and high tension in the beginning that comes with a thriller. A friend who'd already read it suggested that I think of it as a horror novel and when I did that my reading experience got better!
So as to not give unintentional spoilers, I won't try to summarize it since you're here on goodreads already. But I do want to start with the things I didn't like to be able to end my review on a high note. If and when I make a video wrap-up of my reading over the last couple of months, I'll go into some spoilery deets. My main two gripes with this book were who Theo turned out to be and that I was left with lots of questions in the end. Don't get me wrong, I liked him. We were meant to like Theo. However, I felt that the impact of his actions would have been greater if he was any other race than what he was. Now, I realize that poses a problem for his girlfriend but this was a choice that I would have liked to have seen Cole not make. It gave me a vibe of a trope that I hate (that I won't name here because spoilers). The questions I had in the end were about loose ends that I felt took away from my enjoyment and somewhat created plot holes. Over the last year or so, I've read a few books that executed integrating social commentary into the plot better and I can't just put that out of my mind.
Whew! OK! So what did I like? I REALLY REALLY enjoyed the premise of defending your hood against a hostile takeover. Like that is just tooooo real. And the spin that Cole put on it was *chef's kiss*! Gentrification is a real threat and problem. I don't think I've read anything with that premise before. Also, I liked that it was told from dual perspectives. It felt balanced and the 2 MCs felt real to me. I know I said earlier that it lacked the pacing of a thriller. But once I shifted my thinking to horror, I felt like the pacing was great! It didn't lull unnecessarily and there were no huge info dumps. This novel was entertaining and I wanted to know what was gonna happen next. I would recommend this book to people who like a touch of romance with their horror/thrillers. Also if you've seen the new Netflix movie Vampires vs The Bronx and enjoyed it, then I think you'd like this one too.
I learned as much from this thriller as I did in some of the nonfiction anti-racism books I've read this year.
It was horrifying and kept me on edge from chapter one. I'm looking at the neighborhoods in my city more critically and through a racial equity lens regarding gentrification.
This was my first Alyssa Cole, and I thought it was really fun and entertaining, and even moreso, educational. There are so many historical details dropped about the history of a Brooklyn neighborhood, and about the long-term practices of discrimination and disinvestment. What I found particularly striking were the flurry of both subtle and blatantly bigoted words and deeds and aggressions perpetrated on the people in this community, and how they responded. The story is fast-paced in parts, slower in others, but the ending is simply wild, and quite satisfying.
The scariest books out there are often the ones that integrate some elements of truth in them. This was no exception.
The backstory about racism in Brooklyn was thoroughly researched (Alyssa Cole included further references at the end of the book if anyone would be interested in further readings). Not living in US myself, I appreciated the amount of background provided. This made the modern re-imagination of what-could-happen elements in the book the more chilling for it.
I really liked Sydney, the main protagonist in the story. She definitely wasn't perfect, and she had to pretend to be brave every single day because she had no other option and she just wouldn't give in! This was the kind of protagonist I could admire, even though I didn't necessarily agree with all her thought process and reactions.
Theo, the other narrator, was also far from perfect. I liked how the inclusion of his character in the book allowed readers to learn a lot about Black history, without feeling information overload (at least I didn't!). He was a good example of someone who, despite of making a lot of mistakes in the past, was willing to be open minded and to keep learning about his incorrect perceptions.
The antagonists in the book might have been depicted as overly cruel, but sadly I can believe that there are real people out there who are capable of executing similar acts of cruelty because 'they can', especially 'when no one is watching'. Hopefully the number is not that high (I believe the goodness in people!).
At the end of the day, this was a Thriller fiction. It had an amazing main plot based on real events, and awesome sub-plots that were executed really well. It was scary, heartbreaking, and the last 100 pages made me put my life on hold because I just had to keep turning the pages!
See my bookstagram review.
Graphic: Racism, Police brutality, Panic attacks/disorders, Medical trauma, Kidnapping, Hate crime, and Forced institutionalization
Moderate: Death and Addiction
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