Book fourteen, I’m doing so well this year, and I’ve read so many great books and here’s another one to add to the list.
The Other Black Girl
Zakiya Dalila Harris
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.
A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.
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I didn’t think going into this book that it would be a difficult one to review but this is so different to what I was expecting, I think partly that is maybe to do with the fact that this book is billed to be a lot of things that it isn’t, it’s actually quite a hard book to really place but I don’t think thriller quite fits the bill. This is a slow burn book that is more focussed on a kind of mounting unease and a tension and mistrust between characters rather than an edge of your seat book, not that that is bad at all but I do think it’s better to not have any expectations about what this book is to really enjoy it.
The Other Black Girl is also a bit unusual in that for the majority of the book we are mostly looking at Nella, what it is like for her to be the only black girl working at Wagner Publishing and then exploring how she feels about the arrival of Hazel so it feels like a very character-driven commentary on how racial bias is still a big problem in most workplaces, but then there is a section at the end where it turns into something else entirely. There are a few threads of this part of the story weaved into the rest of the book but not in a way that you might pick up on what they will cumulate in, so the ending definitely stands out and I enjoyed this faster-paced ending and that it was exceptionally unexpected.
However, I was left with a lot of questions, and it’s going to be very hard to talk about what those are without completely spoiling the book so I’m not really going to try but I felt like I understood all the surface explanations although I was left a bit confused about the motivations, I wanted to know a lot more about the who and the why. If I just take the story at face value then it is enjoyable and the undertone of unease that is present throughout the whole story does build to a point that really helps to make the ending striking, but once that had worn off I was thinking a lot more about what the relevance of the other POV’s were and that I would have liked to explore that part of the story a little more.
I have to say the narration by Aja Naomi King, Joniece Abbot-Pratt, Bahni Turpin, and Heather Alicia Sims was fantastic and I liked that there were different readers for the different POV’s. I also feel that it helped to separate the timeline a little which is at times very close and others very distant, I feel like I might have got a little confused if it hadn’t have been different people for the different parts. I feel like this kind of more drawn out story lends itself very well to audio, especially when you have narrators who you enjoy listening to.
One thing is for sure that The Other Black Girl is a book that I will be thinking about for a while and I really liked how unexpectedly inventive it was, I will certainly be looking out for more books by this author.