Thank you NetGalley and Harper Collins Publishers for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
SYNOPSIS: 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? (AMAZON)
When No One Is Watching will not be a simple book to read, and it is not supposed to be. It made me uncomfortable at times, it made me upset, it broke my heart on more than one occasion, but it made its point. This isn't just your average thriller—this one is going to tug deep and make you connect.
As far as pacing goes, this novel does take its time. But while it may seem as if it drags at first, it really just gives itself the freedom to develop at the rate necessary to give the reader the full picture before events begin to spiral out of control. And while Sydney drives the biggest chunk of the story, Theo is the guide through which we open our eyes to what is happening behind the facade of Gifford Place. They're both complicated characters that begin to work on their individual issues once they get together to labor toward a common goal.
While the book centers around Gifford Place, the overall descriptive quality of it is so well done that it was incredibly easy to place oneself in this setting. Especially for someone—such as myself—who has never visited New York, it was like stepping into the pages every time. The author pulls no punches in giving this neighborhood and its people their unique personalities and quirks. And it truly does give one the ability to see what it must be like to live here.
Alyssa Cole uses no filter in portraying the racism around which the plot revolves, nor should she. This is a topic that travels well past this novel. The moments of discrimination start subtle and indirect, yet eventually build toward a blatant and outrageous degree that is seen often and brushed aside by some. And by the time that Sydney and Theo take matters into their own hands to stop what has begun to too easily take over this central neighborhood, it is impossible to ignore the damage that misappropriated power does to those unjustly believed to be inferior.
If there's one thing that I felt to be slightly weak in delivery was the ending. It was satisfying in its own right but felt off beat. After their confrontation at the closed down hospital, having Theo and Sydney be attacked and held against their will, only to be freed again with barely any struggle, was anticlimactic and pointless. There's a nice close that promises some momentary relief if not a complete conclusion, due to the reality that what this cast goes through is also going on further out of New York. It's an awareness lent to the reader that this is an issue that will simply not stop anytime soon. At least not without further battle.