Last year’s Booker Prize longlist nominee, Nigthcrawling, is a meditation on the powerless and a study of compulsive maternal instinct where the protagonist attempts to save every swimming person around her while drowning herself. 17-year-old Kiara grows up in the projects of Oakland, Her family life is as broken as can be. Her father, an ex-Panther and ex-convict, has passed away, her mother is in a halfway house on her way to parole after a stint in jail and her beloved brother Marcus is refusing to live in the real world while convinced that his way out of poverty is the lottery of a rap music career. Thrust into the role of a provider, not just for herself but also for her elder brother Marcus and the abandoned kid, Trevor, in her building, Kiara opts to sell the only thing that seems available to her; her body.

Nigthcrawling is an exploration of misogyny, poverty, exploitation and abuse. The exploitation in it often felt too raw and the poverty in your face and almost traumatic but when you align to the fact that as fictional as it is, this is the reality of some people, it is humbling. Nigthcrawling is based on a real-life story where a group of police officers were investigated for exploiting underage girls. While the plot is striking and concerning, the writing strikes the opposite tone. It is problematic since the protagonist is a 17 year old and the tone is expected to be generic and street-savvy. The problem is that for the kind of topics it treats, Kiara’s voice in Nigthcrawling is generic and devoid of passion. In general, the writing is clunky and too descriptive. It made poignant highlights not stand out and made it hard for the reader to feel the emotion of the relatively difficult topic. There is so much to like about Nigthcrawling but for a Booker Prize longlist, one expected a whole lot more.

3/5 Nightcrawling 2Nightcrawling 1

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