Book Review: When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Title: When No On Is Watching

Author: Alyssa Cole

Page Count: 352

Publication Date: 09/2020

Rating: 5/5 stars

About two weeks ago, my bookish best friend (check out her blog) and I had a Zoom chat about, you guessed it, books.

I mentioned how happy I’d be if someone could get my two favorite genres —romance and thriller— to join forces for a heart-pumping, edge-of-my-seat adventure.

I’ve yet to find a book like that, at least in a way that works for me, but I was so excited to learn bestselling romance novelist Alyssa Cole wrote this thriller.

I’ve never read her romance novels; the few I’ve seen were historical romance, and that’s just not for me, but I’m glad that didn’t stop me from giving this book a shot because boy, is it good!


So, this book starts with two people who are worlds apart. Sydney is a Black, 30-year-old woman who moves back to her childhood home in Brooklyn after her divorce. She comes up with the idea of doing a neighborhood tour (think Airbnb Experiences) after attending one led by a clueless white woman in the already changing neighborhood.

What was initially a petty project turns into a deep dive into the history of Brooklyn. She reluctantly enlists the help of her white neighbor Theo, who has relationship problems of his own. Together, they uncover the seedy motives of the Karen-Esque newcomers, eager real estate agents, and, as you could imagine, a larger key player.

Will they ever discover the truth? Will the gender and race dynamics between them get in the way? Which each discovery, new questions arise, and it’s totally worth reading out how it plays out.


HISTORY IS SO FUCKING WILD.

From the moment I read those words in the prologue, I knew this book was for me. From characters (like Bodega Becky) to the thorough research on Brooklyn’s history, every aspect of this book was well executed. Nothing felt out of place or unrealistic, especially the conclusion. That’s what made it scarier than even some of the more terrifying thrillers I’ve read.

There isn’t much I didn’t like about the book, other than the white people responsible for the gentrification in the beloved neighborhood. A few reviews complained the pacing was off and the ending was “rushed,” but I don’t see that as a problem.

Yes, it takes a little while for the story to get where it means to go, but so what? In the meantime, we get to witness the ebbs and flows of Sydney and Theo’s friendship and their relationship with the people around them. This all play an essential role in the conclusion, so it’s worth the wait.

Plus, when shit hits the fan, things tend to go down pretty quickly (at least in my experience) so a “rushed” ending sounds about right to me.

I gave this book five stars because I couldn’t think of any reason not to. If you’re a fan of the movie Get Out, this intense thriller is perfect for you.

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