Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Published: September 1, 2020 by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Rating: 5/5 stars
CW: anti-Black racism; including physical violence against Black people and body gore
Sydney lives in Brooklyn, NY, in a tight-knit neighbourhood that is slowly beginning to disappear before her eyes. When gentrification takes hold and new expensive condos are being put up, Sydney attempts to learn more about the city she thought she knew by taking part in a walking tour. On the tour she meets Theo, who has just moved in to the neighbourhood with his pretentious and racist girlfriend. When Sydney's neighbours start disappearing under mysterious circumstances, her and Theo team up to get to the bottom of what's really happening to this once vibrant street. However, what they uncover will be more terrifying than they ever imagined.
I'm not an avid reader of thrillers, however when I do read them, I'm usually blown away. I saw this book being hyped up and I knew I had to give it a go. What I got was a shocking, terrifying and sadly accurate exploration of the horrors of gentrification and anti-Black racism. I've seen this book being compared to the likes of the movie "Get Out," but it truly stands on its own as a fantastic work of fiction that mirrors what life is like for many people of colour who live in cities.
I've read some reviews that critiqued the pacing of this book, but I personally thought that the pacing was spot-on. I loved how fast-moving the story was, because it kept me engaged throughout the entire book. I finished this book rather quickly because I always wanted to know what happened next, and what Sydney would uncover. Every chapter was like a new, haunting discovery for Sydney, and I desperately wanted to know if she could make things right. This made for a very quick read.
I loved the dynamics that each of the characters brought to the story. Sydney was strong, confident and fiercely loyal to her community, which was fabulous to see. When faced with danger, she does not cower, she takes the perpetuator head-on. She is a constant reminder of the resilience of POC who will never back down when faced with white supremacy.
Theo was also a fascinating character, as we see throughout the book how he tries to work through his own privilege as a white man and attempt to keep his girlfriend in check. Theo is critical of his girlfriend throughout the entire book, and it's quickly made apparent that their relationship is extremely flawed. While Theo's girlfriend drifts more apart from him, Theo grows closer to Sydney and it was great to see how his determination to make things right in his new community flourished as well.
This book brings the genre of a mystery/thriller into the real world. There are no supernatural elements, nothing that you could debate whether or not it could be real. The villains in this story are villains that we hear about in the news, and sadly, the victims are as well. There is no denying that this book is a work of horror because the events are scary, but they also shine a light on what we can do in the real world to ensure that these horrors can be stopped. Cole was able to blend fact and fiction in a way that was unique, and important. I can only hope that more of these thriller novels that take on real-life issues are able to inspire people to take on the horrors of the modern world we live in.
Overall, it's apparent that I loved this book. I thought it was a fresh take on the thriller genre, full of diverse characters and a main character who wants justice for her community. I will definitely be on the lookout for more by this author and more thrillers by POC.
Have you read When No One is Watching? What did you think?
Emily @ Paperback Princess