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  • Writer's pictureChrissy's Books

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Rating - 8/10

This instant New York Times Best Seller read was one of those books that you couldn’t get away from on social media and book clubs. As soon as it came out everyone was reading it. EVERYONE. Like for real for real. I honestly think I chose to read this book simply because everyone and their mother was posting about it in the book world. Also, I saw that it’s a thriller and is advertised as a Hitchcock’s Rear Window meets Get Out. Sold!

I would love to give a massive thanks to William Morrow Paperbacks of HarperCollins Publishers for sending me a print copy of this read!


The setting is Brooklyn, NYC.

We follow a woman named Sydney Green. She’s a true New Yorker, born and raised in her beloved hometown in Brooklyn. As much as she loves her street and neighborhood, lately she noticed that it seems to be changing with the blink of an eye. Condos are popping up all over the place, her local shops are being turned into bougie/chic stores, FOR SALE signs are turning up left and right, and what’s worse is her neighbors are disappearing literally overnight. To hold on to her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour of her neighborhood and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant. One that happens to be one of the new arrivals to the block, Theo.

Sydney & Theo’s dive into history soon becomes a twisted and dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. It turns out the neighbors may have not moved to the ‘burbs after all, and the eager push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

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

My Review:

To be honest with you all, sometimes when I pick up a book I genuinely don’t know much about the plot and this was one of those cases. I knew it was roughly something to do with gentrification and it was a thriller of some sort, but that was about it. I kind of like the element of surprise when reading a book.

What an interesting book this was. I definitely see why it got all of the hype that it did. It literally was a complete blend of Rear Window and Get Out. If you haven’t watched either of these movies, shame on you! Click on the clickable links to see what they’re about and then come back to my review.

While you do that, let me talk a little more about the plot. So we follow Sydney, who is a thirty something year old black woman. She moves back to her hometown in a fictional borough in Brooklyn, NYC. Since being back, she suddenly realizes everything that was so familiar and constant suddenly was changing hella fast! Not sure if any of you have ever been to Brooklyn, or for that matter, literally any other progressing city in the world, but gentrification is real. Like really real! So I for one, could completely relate to Sydney’s story. While all of this is happening, a mysterious and kind new neighbor, who happens to be white, somehow gets involved in Sydney’s project as her assistant. They end up striking up an unlikely friendship.

I liked the characters in this book. The story would bounce between Theo’s POV and Sydney’s POV throughout the book, which made it a very easy read. Sydney had been through a lot in her past and same with Theo. I loved that the story was being told from a black woman’s POV as well. Theo’s side of it was quite interesting, he was a white man trying to sort of navigate his way in a predominantly black neighborhood, and also struggles with where he fits in with all the gentrification that’s going on. A definite realistic situation. You also learn quite a lot reading this book, I already knew quite a bit about the history mentioned on here, but if you didn’t, Cole does teach you a little Brooklyn history which I appreciated.

This was a really interesting story! For a while I actually completely forgot that I was reading a thriller. Haha. It was more of a gripping page turning read for two thirds of the book I’d say. Then the last quarter of the book suddenly got really creepy like really fast!

I loved the feel of the book, it was definitely mysterious and you got that feeling of what the fudge are the neighbors up to (side eye emoji). It was a fun read! I liked Cole’s writing style a lot. It was fun, fresh, and felt very accessible. She definitely wrote this book like how she would sort of speak to you. Informal and very real. (like my book reviews, ha) There were also lots of little quirks in the book that were just hilarious! For example, the neighbors all had a massive group chat, and this is SO relatable because where I live there’s definitely a neighborhood chat group and people are always posting all kinds of ridiculous things on there. I thought that was a fun and light aspect of the book.

Cole tackles a lot of VERY real issues here, such as obviously, gentrification, redlining, race, class, white privilege, social injustice, systemic racism, and then on top of that, it was just a legit gripping and eerie read. I will say that I wouldn’t really classify this book as a hard core thriller, simply because for a good chunk of the book, I mostly thought it was like reading a drama or something, but once you get to the end, the pace of the story really picks up and you’re like whaaaaat!? But then because it didn’t really build that much to the suspense, when the suspense did begin, it came and flew by so fast. It almost felt like you were watching a car crash and you could see it all happening but it all happened so quickly. The ending was very blunt, lol I kinda liked it, and then I was also like, huh? Is this really happening?

All in all it was a good read. Impulsive and I definitely liked the underlying message that Cole left us with in the book. It hit close to home. I think that’s what I liked about it.

It’s definitely worth a read. Very much a Rear Window/Get Out vibe. It was a mix of paranoia, uneasiness that you get from Rear Window, and then straight up gentrification and racial, social justice issues. If you want to read a gripping thriller that also touches on social issues & racial issues then this is the book for you. A different take on a thriller for sure. Also, it made me miss living in Brooklyn a lot! Such a beautiful borough.

Song Pick:

For my song pick, I wanted a pure old skool hip hop track. One that just fully reps Brooklyn to the core, what it's like to live there, and the feel of the real BK, and what it has to offer. I wanted it to be an old skool song because this book does deal with gentrification and I wanted to represent the old Brooklyn, before all the hipsters came and made it what it is now. Totally unrecognizable to its natives. I picked the classic tune, ‘The place where we dwell’ by Gang Starr - released in 1992 before Brooklyn became the insanely gentrified Brooklyn it now is.

Genre: Thriller | Suspense | Mystery

Publish Date: September 1, 2020

Pages: 352 Pages



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