When No One Is Watching
Momma Leighellen's Book Review
Ok, so When No One Is Watching wasn’t ANYTHING like what I was expecting. I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly, but it was deemed as a “MUST READ THRILLER” and about halfway through the book, I kept waiting for the thriller part. Yet it is oddly one of the “scariest” books I have read in awhile because it feels so real and so true and honestly, like what happens every day in America. This “thriller” is original and clever because there’s no true “villain” in a traditional sense. The “bad guy” here is racism.
At it’s core, this book is about gentrification and the lengths wealthy people will go to get what they want. What makes it work, and makes it extra creepy, is that it seems so believable. The story is told through a dual POV – a black woman named Sydney, a life long member of the traditionally black neighborhood and a white man, Theo, who recently moved in. They begin working together to do research for a walking tour of the neighborhood.
As they are researching, a super pushy real estate agent tries to buy out Sydney’s home and other homes of her neighbors. At the same time, long time neighbors begin to disappear and new owners swiftly move in. Something sinister is going on and Sydney + Theo work together to get to the bottom of it. What they find is TOTALLY WACK.
I loved that in between chapters, there were hilarious (+ all too true and painful!) posts from an online community group forum. Think “hey friends, heads up, I saw a black boy riding his bike through our neighborhood. Was he canvasing the joint?” It provides spot on social commentary.
My advice with this book is to hang in there. There are a lot of uncomfortable scenes in this one but the themes of social unrest and gentrification are timely and important. The beginning is slow but it gives the much needed history of the neighborhood for the warp speed ending. I enjoyed a lot about this book, and there is some stuff I could have done without. Sydney is a strong female lead and she’s easy to rally around her cause. The sex and the language took me out of the story a few times and felt unnecessary. The crazy ending literally made my jaw drop, but I wish it lasted a bit longer and had more conclusions. Maybe the author left room for a second book and if that’s the case, I’m all in.
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