Book Title: Nightcrawling
Leila Mottley
Published by:

Review Tagline:
Unforgettable, agonizing and dark story.

My thoughts:
Youth Poet Leila Mottley’s debut novel is Nightcrawling. This book was written by this Oakland native when she was seventeen years old. Also, this debut work was on the Booker Prize longlist and has garnered a broad audience in the literary world. This book is a social criticism piece of fiction that is cutting, distressing, and urgent.

It is a narrative about justice, constraints, free choice, poverty, and inequity. The book then gives a peek into the lives of a seventeen-year-old girl who must assume responsibility for matters above her age of capabilities, with questions of choice and freedom revolving around it. Kiara tries everything she can to live in a terrible society, with her mother in recovery, her elder brother striving to make a profession, and her neighbour’s baby kid to care for. When Kiara’s landlord raises his rent roll, a new dilemma develops. Kiara and her family risk being evicted due to rent hikes. It is solely up to Kiara to collect the funds because her father is deceased, her mother is missing, and Marcus is more concerned with launching a music career than obtaining a paid job. Because she did not complete high school and lacked a résumé, her alternatives are exceedingly restricted, and she becomes a prostitute. As a result, Kiara must do everything she can to live, including prowling the perilous streets of her hometown and looking for fast money. Kiara’s life is turned upside down when she falls connected with two local cops. However, when the police surround her, she is trapped in a scenario where she is regularly used and abused.

It’s also an engrossing novel for reasons other than the horrifying way its protagonist is a victim of sex trafficking. Kiara is understandably resentful and angry with her mother for making such enormous blunders. Later in the novel, there is a devastating and profound confrontation regarding how this daughter and mother ultimately comprehend and bond over the terrible decisions individuals must make in dire circumstances. Kiara also has to deal with her brother, uncle, and a trans lady named Camila, who is also a prostitute. The narrative vividly illustrates how their struggle with one another is mainly caused by more significant concerns and pressures over which they have little control, yet they are still people.

Kiara’s freedom is limited due to the massive media circus following her encounter with these unscrupulous policemen. It puts Kiara in front of a grand jury, where she must testify against these cruel and desperate individuals. Kiara’s evidence, however, will not rescue her loved ones, mainly because someone is out to silence her.

The story immerses us in Kiara’s point of view and journey through these horrible circumstances realistically and dramatically. Still, it also cleverly illustrates more significant concerns involving the danger and violence many Black people face.


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