Published: October 14th, 2021
Genre: Thriller, Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
I read this book as part of a readalong organised by Tandem Collective UK. Thank you to them for the invitation to take part and be a VIP host, and to HQ for the gifted ARC.
THE MOST IMPORTANT NOVEL YOU’LL READ THIS YEAR
Not every story is black and white.
Riley and Jen have been best friends since they were children, and they thought their bond was unbreakable. It never mattered to them that Riley is black and Jen is white. And then Jen’s husband, a Philadelphia police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager and everything changes in an instant.
This one act could destroy more than just Riley and Jen’s friendship. As their community takes sides, so must Jen and Riley, and for the first time in their lives the lifelong friends find themselves on opposing sides.
But can anyone win a fight like this?
We Are Not Like Them is about friendship and love. It’s about prejudice and betrayal. It’s about standing up for what you believe in, no matter the cost.
“When the bullets hit him, first his arm, then his stomach, it doesn’t feel like he’d always imagined it would. Because of course as a Black boy growing up in this neighbourhood, he’d imagined it.”
Wow. Just, wow. It’s been a few weeks since I read this phenomenal debut and I’m still thinking about it every day. I also still have no idea how to review it. The topic feels too big, too important to reduce to a review. But I will do my best.
Lifelong friends Riley and Jen have never cared that one of them is Black and the other white. But after unarmed Black teenager Justin Dwyer is shot by two white police officers they find their friendship tested in ways they never imagined. They are both embroiled in the story and find themselves on opposing sides for the first time in their lives. Can their friendship withstand such a test?
“At the end of the day, I’m afraid that Jen won’t get it. Maybe I’ve always been afraid.”
The story is narrated by Riley and Jen in alternating chapters, offering the reader an insight into how both women are affected in the aftermath of the shooting. Riley’s job as a news reporter and Jen’s position as the wife of one of the officers involved in the shooting immediately place them on opposing sides immediately. But then race becomes part of the discussion and adds more layers and nuance to this already complex story.
I felt so conflicted reading this book. So many questions swam through my mind as I read and I found myself full of emotions I never expected. I didn’t know who to root for or where my allegiance should lay. I felt deeply sorry for both Jen and Riley, who are both great characters and saw both sides of their opposing arguments. A big part of the problem between them is down to assumption and miscommunication, which left me feeling frustrated as so much of the pain they caused each other could have been avoided. I also had some sympathy for Kevin, who is clearly torn apart by what happened, though my ultimate sympathy lay with the young boy he shot and his devastated mother, who I would have liked to see more of in the book.
“It kills me to think how some people want so badly to believe racism is buried beneath layers and layers of history, “ancient history”, they say. But it’s not. It’s like an umpire brushing the thinnest layer of dirt off the home plate: it’s right there. Only too often the trauma, the toll of it, remains unknown generation after generation. Like how Gigi kept her own awful secret, presumably to protect us from the ugly truth, and I’ve kept my own secrets, haunted by a similar shame.”
As a white woman I am aware I occupy a position of privilege and see the world through the lens of my own experiences. I love reading books like this one as they open my eyes to things that I might not have considered and help me to understand prejudice on a deeper level. And that is part of the beauty of this book; whatever your race, gender or beliefs, there are things to learn from it. I was fortunate to read this as part of a readalong with other bloggers and during the chats about the book I enjoyed hearing their insights and views on the book as there were things some of them saw that I had missed or never considered. This enabled me to look at things from a perspective I’d otherwise never have had, something which I am grateful for.
“He wants to tell them his name. If they know his name he’ll be less alone. Worse than the pain or even the fear is that he’s never felt so alone in his life.”
Bold, brave and thought-provoking, this made me feel ALL the feelings. It opens as it means to go on, with a chapter that is so searing, raw and heartbreaking that I will never forget it. It is an unsettling but important read. A story about humanity, compassion, privilege, race and justice that reminds us not everything is black and white, and that the truth lies in the shades of grey. Exquisitely written with vivid characterisation, you can see the care that has been taken over every word on the page and I would love to have been a fly on the wall to see how the two authors co-wrote the book.
A powerful, honest and heart-rending debut, We Are Not Like Them is a story that lingers long after closing that final page. A book that demands to be read and discussed. And one that I highly recommend.
MEET THE AUTHORS:
Christine Pride is a writer, editor and 15-year publishing veteran. She has held editorial posts at various imprints, including Doubleday, Broadway, Crown, Hyperion, and, most recently, as a Senior Editor at Simon and Schuster. Christine has edited and published a range of bestselling books, with a special emphasis on inspirational stories and memoirs. We Are Not Like Them, written with Jo Piazza, is her first book. She lives in New York City.
Jo Piazza is an award-winning reporter and editor who has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle and Salon. She has appeared on CNN, NPR, Fox News, the BBC and MSNBC. Her novel, The Knockoff, with Lucy Sykes became an instant international bestseller and has been translated into more than seven languages.
Jo received a Masters in Journalism from Columbia, a Masters in Religious Studies from NYU and a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed If Nuns Ruled the World and Celebrity Inc: How Famous People Make Money.
She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and their giant dog.
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx