I was chosen to be a part of the @mystery.book.club and their pick for June was this new debut release from Zakiya Dalila Harris that came out on June 4th. This book was described as a mix between Get Out & The Devil Wears Prada and a mix of Get Out meets The Stepford Wives, a strange and interesting mix! I’ve noticed a lot of books recently are being described as a mix between Get Out & some other movie. Quite funny when you think about it. It seems to have morphed into its own sort of sub-genre. Huge thanks to Atria Books for sending me an advanced review copy of this read.
The setting for this book is Manhattan, New York City.
We follow a twenty six year old editorial assistant named Nella Rogers as she tirelessly navigates her white washed work environment as the only black employee in the publishing house, Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to the new office favorite, and Nella is left behind like old news.
Soon after, these strange notes start to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER NOW is what the first one said.
Nella finds it hard to believe that Hazel could be behind these hostile notes. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.
Well well, where to begin. Firstly I will say that this book is typically the type of book that I would normally fall head over heels in love with. I mean look at this book cover though?! Everything about it screams yasss Chrissy, love me! Haha
Let me start off by mentioning the things that I liked about this book. Firstly, the book cover is seriously eye-catching! Also I actually recognized the artist that did the book cover as soon as I saw it. He’s a brilliant artist called Temi Coker, check out his Instagram here. This cover and title just begs you to read it.
I liked that the author tackled this interesting core subject matter of what it’s like to work in a predominately white workplace, which is something a lot people would be able to relate to, including, yours truly. *Fun Fact* Zakiya Dalila Harris actually used to work at Knopf publishers, so I feel like she would have been speaking from first hand experience while writing this fiction read. It was quite fun to know that I thought. I did like that she brought these issues to our attention such as classism, office politics, and microaggressions that tend to happen in a predominantly white work environments.
Now to the negatives, hm. Firstly, let me just add that on the book club that I took part in on Instagram, ‘Mystery Book Club’, we all had a discussion at the end of the month about what everyone thought of the book. I would say that around 50% of people weren’t too keen on it, and the rest liked it. I was so glad that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t love this book!
The character development, or lack of character development drove me bonkers. We follow Nella mostly in this book, but about a quarter of the way in, we’re introduced to these new characters that completely come in out of left field. No back story whatsoever, it was just extremely confusing. It drove me crazy. I’m usually quite a thorough reader but I found myself utterly confused by the plot and timeline of this book. The story would also jump in between two time periods and with very little explanation which I found quite jarring. A very confusing storyline, and it also felt too surface-y for me, like I remember feeling a lot during the book that I just didn’t really care about what I was reading about.
I also felt that not a whole lot happened for like three quarters of the book. The book really did not need to be this long. I found myself becoming bored while reading it. When I get confused and not intrigued by the storyline, I start to lose interest. Half the time I was wondering, wow, where’s the editor? haha like I never think that about a book but man...the struggle was real to get to the end of it. I also wasn’t keen at all about the ending.
Another aspect of the book that I struggled with was the dialogue, it felt a little disingenuous. Like it was trying too hard. There were a lot of ‘black culture’ references that a lot of non black American people would not understand for sure. That’s not to say that I didn’t like that, but yeah the writing itself was just ‘okay’ in my opinion.
I really wanted to love this book so much, but it just fell short for me. Too many flaws that I couldn’t part with. I will say that this book would make a fantastic TV series! I recently heard that Hulu will be doing just that sometime soon and I’ll definitely be watching it! I think as a show, it’s an amazing concept, but definitely not as a book. It didn’t translate well at all to me. I felt that the premise itself was a great idea, but the execution just didn’t do it justice. I will also say that it would make a great discussion for a book club, but definitely wasn’t a favorite for me. Also the genre was sort of all over the place for me. This is a book that’s hard to recommend because I feel that people will either like it, or just not gel with it. Gotta keep it real..
Believe it or not, Atria Books, the publisher of this read, created a playlist especially for this book on Spotify! Ha So I checked it out and weirdly enough, the song that I had chosen to be the song pick was also included in this playlist! I was shook! I picked 'Apple Tree' by Erykah Badu. I felt that the vibe of this song really suits the book well. Also it fits one of the characters to a tee.
Genre: Thriller | Mystery | Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Pages: 357 Pages
Publisher: Atria Books