Book Review: Nightcrawling – Leila Mottley

Nightcrawling is the jaw-dropping debut novel inspired by a headline story and the author’s home city, Oakland. Kiara, a young Kiara, a young Black sex worker who walks the streets for survival and lands, staggering, in the depths of the justice system, is doing all that she can to look out for both her brother and Trevor, a nine-year- old whose mother leaves for periods of time with no word of her whereabouts.

Kiara is a loyal seventeen-year-old who considers it her remit to scope out work to pay the rent for the squalid apartment that she and brother, Marcus, still live in, despite being abandoned by their mother. Especially after he makes it very clear that he isn’t willing to work on anything aside from his music.

After a misunderstanding, she finds herself walking the street to simply keep a roof over their heads and avoid the wrath of their landlord, Vernon. And as her world opens up to involve the Oakland Police Department, the book becomes a riveting page-turner, as we follow Kiara with concern to see where in this unsafe world her work takes her into. The callous language of motel rooms and police badge numbers becomes very familiar as the story progresses.

Raw, gritty, grim: this intense debut depicts a side of Oakland and a life that will disturb and alarm. Leila Mottley has created an unforgettable adult world for a character that we need to remind ourselves is just a child. Nightcrawling is a disturbing and emotive novel that packs a punch.

Nightcrawling is published by Bloomsbury on 24th May 2022

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