Book Review: When No One Is Watching

This is a thriller with a MUCH bigger message about gentrification. As a white woman who is currently part of the gentrification of Harlem, it felt like this book was tapping directly on my forehead saying “hey you, take note!” NOTE: I love my neighborhood but am keenly aware that I have entered an existing community with a vibrant culture, not bringing my community with me. My role is to support the businesses that are here and do what I can to help locals thrive instead of being displaced. But what if people have more nefarious dreams in mind? And what if gentrification isn’t just disappointing…what if it’s deadly?

Sydney is born and raised in the Gifford Place neighborhood of Brooklyn. It’s the kind of neighborhood where your neighbors work together to plant a community garden and everybody knows everyone else’s business, in the best way. But Sydney just moved back after spending time in Seattle and is noticing some major changes to the place she calls home. Many of her neighbors have moved out of their brownstones, replaced by entitled white families. Families who don’t like the grungy bodegas, who wear Lululemons, and who are, frankly, pretty racist. And with a pharmaceutical company announcing the neighborhood as the site for their next headquarters, they’ll soon be flooding in. Sydney is none too pleased with the changes and has decided to start a walking tour that better represents her neighborhood and its history. No more white washing. She’s annoyed when Theo, one of the gentrifiers, eagerly signs up to help but she’ll need an ally because the more Sydney starts to research, the more strange things start to happen. It starts to seem that she and Theo are about to become collateral damage in the gentrification of the neighborhood.

The scariest part of this book is just how real some of it could be. I also love that it’s a very new take on a genre that’s become hugely popular. It was refreshing to get the same quick-moving suspense of a thriller (the last 1/3 was super fast paced, like an action movie) without the main subject being domestic abuse or a secret murderer.

4.75 out of 5 stars.

Pair with: A cloying white wine, like a riesling.