Book Review

When No One Is Watching

When No One is Watching

  • Author: Alyssa Cole
  • Narrators: Susan Dalian, Jay Aaseng
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Publication Date: September 1, 2020
  • Publisher: HarperAudio

CONTENT WARNING: racism, anxiety, illness, infidelity, forced institutionalization, gun violence, death, police brutality, medical experimentation

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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?

This was one of these books that I’ve heard so many people raving about, that I just couldn’t resist snapping up the audiobook when it was available at my library. I’m so glad that I chose the audiobook too, since the narrators were outstanding. The woman portraying Sydney did a fabulous job of conveying her growing sense of unease as it escalates into outright paranoia. And the narrator portraying Theo did a wonderful job of balancing Theo’s desire to help with learning about his own privilege and how to be an ally to the Black community. 

It started out a little slow, but I was enjoying getting to know the two main characters as it set the stage for the story to develop. And boy did the story develop. Once I was comfortable with the characters and the setting, things really did kick off, and the pace sped up. There were some truly surprising plot twists that kept me listening non-stop. 

It wasn’t always a comfortable read, and there were some truly cringeworthy moments. Some of the characters make comments that are rife with microaggressions, and there are some outright racist statements made. The story incorporates a number of sensitive issues, including racism, mental health, gentrification, and how the Black community relates to the police, and it felt as though it was done realistically. 

I often find that the scariest books are those that can and do actually happen. This story felt so true to life, that it was horrifying. While I don’t want to give anything important away, this is a situation that didn’t seem all that far-fetched. Gentrification is a very real situation that occurs in neighborhoods all over, and very few people really think about what happens to people to the people who get pushed out in the name of the almighty dollar. 

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 11

9 replies »

  1. Ooh, I actually *just* snapped this up on Kindle as it was going for 99p but I’m always keen to do more audiobooks and I love that this one has two narrators. I still haven’t read anything by Alyssa Cole and had no idea she wrote thrillers but I’m so keen to give this a try. Great review, Leah!

    Liked by 1 person

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