Friday, September 25, 2020

I Think We're Having An Identity Crisis - When No One is Watching Review


TITLE: When No One is Watching
AUTHOR: Alyssa Cole
PUBLISHER: William Morrow Paperback
PUBLISHING DATE: September 1, 2020


Rear Window meets Get Out in this gripping thriller from a critically acclaimed and New York Times Notable author, in which the gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning… 
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? 

So it's never a good sign when I don't know exactly how to start a review.  Thus is the case with When No One is Watching.  This new novel by Alyssa Cole, a famous romance author, is being marketed as a thriller.  In fact, it even says so on the cover right there in the door frame.  However, what I discovered was more like a book that doesn't really fit any genre really well and instead in a mashup of several.

Sydney Green is living in her childhood home after fleeing a bad marriage in Washington.  Her mother has been very ill and is being taken care of in a long term assisted living facility.  Sydney works in the office of a local school but it is summer which means she has a lot of time on her hands.  Her best friend, Drea, also lives upstairs in the family brownstone.  Sydney is quickly watching her neighborhood change around her.  A lot of her neighbors are mysteriously moving out in in their place are snooty Whites who are hoping to capitalize and "rebuild" the area since a new pharmaceutical company is planning on locating to the area.  

What the reader ends up seeing is white privilege rearing its ugly head and many of Sydney's friends are being taken advantage of in various ways.  As Sydney starts to really question what is going on, she becomes friends with one of the new neighbors, Theo. Theo and his girlfriend recently bought the house across the street and even though they are on the rocks, they still share their fixer upper.  Theo starts watching Sydney and is more than infatuated with and meets her one day when his bitch of a girlfriend cuts in front of her at the local bodega, and then acts as if Sydney has threatened her life when all she had done is committed the horrible "crime" of being Black.  

The rest of the novel unfolds as so much happens that it's hard to keep up.  It's clear that Cole has years of experience writing romance because the first half of the book seems like a contemporary romance tale, albeit a heavy-hitting one.  However, remember, this is a thriller.  So we are also introduced to horrible secrets of Sydney and Theo, bedbugs, dead bodies in the community garden, a pharmaceutical takeover and illegal experiments surrounding opiate addition.  And that's not all.  We have a riot, underground tunnels, murder, cover ups and crooked cops.  And LOTS of privileged white people.

I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I did.  And being honest, I feel Cole hit on a lot of topics which are very pertinent in today's climate.  I respect that she decided to tackle them and enjoyed learning about Brooklyn's slavery history.  I'm aware she did a lot of research for this novel and it shows in some areas.  I just kind of feel like in other areas, it tried to tackle too much and didn't really succeed.  

In all honestly, I could easily give this book 2/3 paws.  However, I can't overlook the entertainment value it had, if for no other reason than to see what was going to happen next.  I don't know that I can really recommend this book but if anything I've mentioned interests you or makes you curious, then hey, pick it up.



  1. I tend to stay away from the books with social issues to be honest. I read for entertainment and to get away from what I see daily on the news! Reading about issues like bullying, addiction, eating disorders, racism, sexual abuse etc in fiction just depresses my mood now and puts me sometimes in a slump! I had to give up reading non fiction on these topics too!

  2. This sounds crazy, and from what you described, it doesn't fit the cover very well. Sorry it didn't work out that well for you!

  3. Sounds like this book didn't quite know what it wanted to be. At least you were entertained! :)

  4. It does sound like it has a lot going on! I have to admit underground tunnels and rioting caught my eye lol. Glad it was entertaining though even with all the issues.

  5. I love the diversity elements, but I don't think I would survive the romance and thriller parts. Thanks for sharing your review! 👍✨

  6. I like I was in an alternate universe at times since obviously I don't experience the horrible way Sydney was treated for being black. But also I felt at times like she was an unreliable narrator for the story because some of drinking and drugs she took at times. She was dealing with so much grief about a few different things. It was a fascinating read.

    Anne - Books of My Heart

  7. Sorry this one didn't work - I'll give it a miss thanks.
    Lynn :D