Book Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole | #SpooktasticReads

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Genre : Horror, Thriller

Publisher : William Morrow

Length : 368 pages

Format : Audiobook

Rating : 4.5 stars

Publication Date : September 1st 2020 

Publisher’s Description

The gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

Book Review

Sydney Greene, a black woman in her thirties living in Brooklyn, is trying to hold her life together
in the midst of the revitalization of her neighborhood. Families, friends and faces she has known her entire life are slowly disappearing. One day they are there, the next, they are selling their houses and being replaced by white people.

Theo is one of such white people. He’s new to Brooklyn and he is living with his very rich and abusive ex-girlfriend. He meets Sydney during a tour of the neighborhood. The tour goes wrong when they both realize that the guide is only talking about houses that were occupied by rich white families decades ago without any consideration towards the black community now living there. The two of them starts off an unlikely friendship when Sydney decides that she’ll host a tour of her own. This tour will be focused on the black community and Theo volunteers to help her. However, during their research, both of them realize that the gentrification of their neighborhood might be a lot less innocuous than they both anticipated.

When No One is Watching is my first thriller so I didn’t know if I would like it or not. I wanted to give it a try because it seemed like a slow and unsettling read rather than an action-packed thriller and, I thought it would suit my reading taste better. And I was right! I loved the atmosphere and the slow progression of the story. In the beginning, the creepy elements are only hinted at and, the characters don’t know if they are being paranoid or if is something really is happening. However, even if the progression was slow, some moments were so tense and claustrophobic that I had to stop listening because I was way too creeped out.   

I really liked the characterization, I could relate to both main characters but, most of all, they were so realistic that I could understand their every move and decision. At some points in the story, Sydney doubted Theo and Theo doubted Sydney and, I couldn’t help but to do the same. It was almost as if as I living the actions myself! At one moment, I was so sure that one of them betrayed the other and I remember pausing the book and exclaiming loudly. Thank god I was alone in my kitchen and not in the street.  

Sydney was my favorite character, I really liked the fact that, even when her world is falling apart, she keeps on trying to understand what is happening. I also loved how angry (and right-fully so!) she was at the world and how she always managed to put Theo back in his place when he was acting like a white savior.

I also liked Theo but sometimes, he acted “very white”. He was oblivious to a lot of things, especially when people he interacted with were blatantly racist. However, I thought his point of view was an interesting contrast with Sydney’s. It also added an interesting element to the story since, like us, he is discovering the neighborhood and its history.

Speaking of history, I really enjoyed learning more about Brooklyn, I’ve never been to New York but this book (and The Ballad of Black Tom that I’ve read just before it) made me want to go there! All the historical tidbits could have felt a bit heavy handed in the hands of another author but Alyssa Cole managed to incorporate them in a fascinating and organic way into the story.

If you are looking for a thrilling, unsettling and creepy story that gives you Get Out vibes, you will love When No One is Watching. Alyssa Cole mostly writes romance books but if she ever writes other thrillers or horror books, I will be reading them for sure! 😀

Art by Sergey Nivens from 123RF.com

13 thoughts on “Book Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole | #SpooktasticReads

      1. I love her Off the Grid series which are SciFi romances that take place after something makes all the electricity stop working and causes a bit of societal collapse. I also love her historicals–she has a novella that takes place during the Civil Rights movement that I absolutely was blown away by (Let it Shine)–she also has a series that takes place during the Civil War and I absolutely loved An Extraordinary Union (need to read the rest). Her contemporary romances are good too, A Prince in Theory is the first book in the Reluctant Royals series. It’s hard to pick a fave because they’re all great for different reasons so it just depends what you’re into. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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