Cover Image: Nightcrawling


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Member Reviews

Absolutely outstanding, and a sure winner for the Booker prize! The perfect book to read this summer.
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Firstly as many people have said before me, I can’t believe this book was written by a 17 year old. That is not to disparage young people but the maturity in the writing, the seamless descriptions of people and places and the general feeling and content of the book is way beyond most seasoned older writers. So hats off to you Leila Mottley. 
Obviously the subject of the book is harrowing and the despair I felt for Kiara was palpable. To have such responsibilities thrust upon her at such an early age would cripple most people but she rose to the challenge and despite many hardships she emerges as a heroine. Her devotion to her young neighbour Trevor is heartwarming and shows a gentle and caring side to Kiara that could so easily have been worn down. 
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this insight into a world that most of us, thank God, never have to see but it left me feeling anxious as to how we as a society can help/avoid this exploitation  happening in the future.
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3.5 rounded down

Most reviews of Nightcrawling are leading with the fact that Mottley wrote this, her debut novel, aged just seventeen. This undeniably impressive - as is the Booker longlisting - but this would be a strong debut even if you disregarded the author's age at the time of writing.

Based loosely on the Oakland Police Department scandal, I found the writing style was not always to my taste (a bit too self conscious) but this is small criticism of a book I raced through, covers important subject matter and is one I expect to see on more prize lists later in the year. My rating is down to personal preference and my own enjoyment of the novel: objectively I think it is good and deserving of inclusion on the Booker longlist, but it didn't grab me emotionally (probably down to the writing).
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Nightcrawling takes us into the life of 17 year old Kiara (Ki) whose world is crumbling down around her. Her father has died, her mother is in a halfway house, she's jobless, she lives in a high rent hovel, her brother has zero notions of pitching in and she's caring for her addict neighbour's little boy, Trevor. Despite all her attempts at keeping her head above water she becomes involved in a world of sordid abuse and manipulation by a group of police officers who coercively control her as an underage 'nightcrawler'.

The novel is absolutely devastatingly gripping from the very first page. Immediately, it's obvious Kiara is in an awful situation and the urge is to wrap up her up and take her from this devastation. Mottley writes so well that there's an immediate emotional connection and investment with Kiara and you can't help but want to run in and rescue her.

Leila doesn't shy away from the nasty, gritty and graphic reality of this case. And honestly that's one of the most frightening parts, that this story is based on true events which occured in the Oakland area. Leila allows us to see into a world overflowing with poverty, abuse, police brutality and incredible injustice. Not only does she allows us to catch a glimpse of this world, she is so authentic and faithful in her writing that it is hard not to feel the fear and desperation seep from the pages. 

It's hard to imagine that such a well written, gripping and important book is a debut novel but even harder to imagine that Leila began writing Nightcrawling just before her 17th birthday. I was completely consumed by every page and am very excited to see what's to come next from the wonder that is Leila Mottley.
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Kiara Johnson is a 17-year old girl from Oakland whose father has died, whose mother is in jail and whose brother only cares about becoming a famous rapper. It falls on unemployed Kiara to pay the rent and take care of 10-year old Trevor. It doesn't come as a surprise then that she makes a wrong choice for which she pays dearly.

It was refreshing to read something from the perspective of the poor Californian suburbs and very interesting to hear the voice of a new generation. For much of the book I thought the story was autobiographical, admittedly because the author is so young but also because it is quite straightforward and chronological. The fact that it's not and still felt realistic is a compliment.
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Wow this is a hard hitting and gritty book but by god it’s stunning, everything about it was brilliant and it will stay with me for a very long time…I loved it even though it was sad and shocking because it was downright brilliant
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17 year old Kiara's mother is in rehab and her older brother is trying to make it in music so she's left to fend  for herself - and for 9-year-old Trevor, whose own mother often goes AWOL Then one night Kiara is picked up by two police officers, and offered a deal in exchange for her freedom. Should she testify and expose endemic corruption, or stay quiet to save her family?  

Oh my god what a book, what a writer, what a life! Nightcrawling is probably not written for middle class  50 year olds like me, but what a story it is. And written when the author was 17? That's just incredible.
There is so much in the book, all about growing up in a world that I know nothing about, the struggles that young people face and the indifference that the world shows them, the choices they have to make to get through, and the lifelong implications they can have.

Absolutely outstanding
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This is a hard-hitting book.  Told from the perspective of an authentic young voice, the story is that of so many.  An excellent debut
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I’d describe this book as realistic fiction. The author has done an amazing job at creating imaginary characters and situations that depict the world and society. The characters focus on themes of growing, self-discovery and confronting personal and social problems. This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.
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This is a powerful and compelling book concerning the disfunctional life of Kiara Johnson, 17 years old, mother in prison, father dead and brother a huge waste of space, only interested in making it big in the world of music but without an iota of talent.

She takes in the abandoned child from next door, his druggie mother having wandered off, and she's always one step ahead of the rent man, and one month behind in rent, which the landlord has just notified them will be increased.

What Kiara then does to keep a roof over the heads of her brother and little Trevor is truly dreadful.  But then she is picked up by two police officers, who insist she provides sex in return for money or occasionally just to keep safe.  She has no choice.   Then the police are at the centre of a media storm and Kiara has to testify in a grand jury trial, and she is caught up in a trial to expose corruption in the police department.  Which is a dangerous path to take.

The story is told well, and grips the reader, as we run with Kiara and feel her pain.  The only problem I had was with the language used; the phrases 'nobody ever taught none of us how to delight in the water'  and 'they don't got a bus to catch...' almost had me closing the book.  I appreciate dialect and using colloquial speech, but it all got a bit much.   I guess that's how Kiara and her friend speak, but it murders the English language.

By the end I had a lot of sympathy for Kiara, none at all for Uncle Ty and Marcus, and great sadness for little Trevor.  It is a sad indictment of how families can live under the radar and have such desperate lives, hungry and neglected.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc UK for allowing me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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(Photograph of Leila Mottley by Magdalena Frijo)

Deep sadness runs through the pages of Nightcrawling, the much-anticipated debut novel by Leila Mottley. There is little to redeem the bleak lives of most of the characters living in the Hi-Regal apartment block where Nightcrawling opens. Mothers suffering from addiction and the challenges of well, mothering; men sent to prison for the peak years of their lives; others lost to organized crime; and one who made it out and never looked back. We follow Kiara as she attempts to keep the multiple plates of her life in Oakland, California, spinning. Her father died when she was younger, her mother is plagued with mental health issues after losing another daughter, and Kiara’s next-door neighbor’s son, Trevor, is now her responsibility too, Kiara having quasi-adopted him.

There is much discussion online surrounding the age of the author—she began writing this novel before her eighteenth birthday—and there is a certain naive quality to the prose. That is not to say it is cheerful—as mentioned above, the plot goes from one sad story to the next. More that it emotes so vulnerably on the page. There is a brutality to the language Mottley uses, and while it is tender when it needs to be, on the rare occasions the characters are allowed to be soft, it is mostly exposing and abrasive, propelling the reader through the book’s chapters. 
The youth of the author translates to the youth of her characters too. The voice of Kiara is palpable, as are the ways the world has forced her to grow up too soon. We see the confusion this causes her as a young Black woman stuck in the middle; it compels us to root for her, good decisions or bad. As we move further into the story, Kiara becomes entangled in the streets, participating in sex work to keep paying rent, and we see her shell harden; life is less than fair to her. Her inner monologue provides visceral descriptions, metaphors for her reality, as things move from bad to worse when she is taken advantage of by the local police department which employs her (if we can even call it that) to provide sex to countless officers at off-duty parties or in dark parking lots.

When a tragedy strikes the police department, Kiara is further embroiled in a case that will supposedly protect her but which unfolds more as if she is the one on trial. As a young black woman (seventeen at the time of the incidents) she is adultified by almost every adult figure she interacts with—the ones who want to blame her and even the ones who are meant to protect her. She is asked to be a martyr, pressured by a local lawyer with some kind of savior complex to be the voice for many sex workers who have experienced abuse by law enforcement and clients alike, although Kiara feels less than certain that she wants to become the industry’s spokesperson at all.

“[T]he space between my lungs and stomach clenches and I feel almost seasick, like the bay has entered my chest when I wasn’t looking. I step closer to her again and speak between my teeth. ‘If you do that, you fucking my whole life over.’

“‘If I don’t, I’m still fucking you over and whatever other girls they’ll play with after they’re done with you. We both know they’ve probably already got their hands on a handful of other girls younger than you are that no one knows about. This is a chance at saving them.’ Her eyes are pooling, but not with tears. Might be pity or guilt, but they’ve glassed over completely. ‘I’m telling you because I can take out your name. I think it’s best for everyone to know, so you can speak for yourself, but it’s your call.’”

The treatment of sex work within the story is nuanced. It provides an important counternarrative to the ongoing shift towards sex work as liberatory (which it can be), reminding readers that the stories of young people, like Kiara, who do not find pleasure, choice, or even safety within that world, are left out of the new era of sex-positive feminism. Mottley’s story offers frank depictions of racism, misogyny, and adultification but still manages to maintain the argument of sex work as work and avoids discrediting the spectrum of experiences, including the brutality of Kiara’s.

While Nightcrawling is a work of fiction, its plotline is based on, or inspired by, the realities of many young women in Oakland and countless other cities across the United States. Mottley’s afterword explains her desire to create a fictitious story from real life events: 

“As I wrote and researched this book, I drew inspiration from the Oakland case [a real-life 2015 sex abuse case] and others like it, as I wanted to write a story of my city, but I also wanted to explore what it would mean for this to happen to a young Black woman, for this case to be in the narrative control of a survivor, for there to be a world beyond the headline, and for readers to access this world.”

Leila Mottley is a young author to watch. I believe her next novel, and hopefully the ones that continue to follow after that, will chart an ever-growing sense of herself as an author, a woman, and a person fighting for something better for all.
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An absolutely brilliant read that will turn you inside out. This is a powerful story. It is searing, relentless and utterly heartbreaking.
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Kiara is seventeen and doesn't have it easy, her mom is in rehab and Trevor who is nine who also lives in the same apartment block is very often on his own so she helps look after him too.
This is a harrowing story of how Kiara was caught up in cop corruption and the difficult situation she was put in and how she testifies in front of a grand jury.
A hard hitting debut novel.
Thanks to NetGalley & Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for a advanced copy.
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Nightcrawling is an incredibly accomplished debut novel from Leila Mottley who started writing the book at 16, finished it by 17 and signed her publishing deal on her 18th birthday!! I’m honestly in awe that she could write such an incredible debut at this tender age! 
The book is based on a case of sexual exploitation of young girls by members of the Oakland police force which Leila, an Oakland native decided to write a fictional account of. The book follows 17 year old Kiara (Kia) who lives alone with her older brother Marcus and cares for a young boy Trevor, who lives down the hall in an ironically named Regal-Hi apartment block in Oakland. Her brother Marcus dreams of becoming a rapper which means he isn’t working a proper job and since she is underage she struggles to find work to help pay the bills. After, a misunderstanding where she gets picked up in a bar and paid, she sees night crawling as a way to keep her family afloat while she and Marcus search for work. As a young vulnerable girl, she is quickly exploited on the streets but in this case it’s at the hands of the police force after she gets busted turning tricks.
This book is so powerful and moving – it’s utterly heart-breaking that there are young children living on the edge like this with no safety net. Kiara has such positive intentions and dreams and has such a kind-heart and so much love to give but just falls into this life as she has no other choice and the treatment of her at the hands of her abusers is utterly horrific. 
Obviously this book is getting a huge amount of attention now after it’s deserved selection by Oprah’s book club and I absolutely think it’s a must read. Huge thank you to @netgalley and @bloomsbury for this ARC in return for an honest review.
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I can’t believe that the author wrote this book when she was just 17.  Kiara is a young girl left alone with her older brother, whilst trying to find money to pay the rent, as well as look after a young boy whose mother keeps abandoning him. 

Based on a true story of police corruption, it’s a harrowing read but so beautifully written; I can’t stop thinking about it.
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💕Having just finished 'Nightcrawling', the debut novel by Leila Motley, I decided to look her up. I am astounded at how brilliant this young writer is. ‬
‪Her writing is inspiring, she shows a depth of feeling to, and understanding of, her characters and the world they live in. 
The story has strength and is presented warts and all, truthfully telling Kiara and Marcus' tale. ‬Although Kiara makes some bad decisions, she feels that she has little choice to do otherwise. She is rollercoaster along, from bad situation to worse. And yet, despite everything she goes through, she has a heart full of love for those closest to her, which makes the reader warm to her.
‪I will be looking forward to more of Ms Motley's work, as I'm certain that in her next novel, she will continue to impress. ‬I will be looking out for it
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This is a truly astonishing debut novel. Set in Oakland USA, it tells the story of Kiara, an impoverished black teenager, and is based on a true story involving sexual exploitation by the police. I thought it was powerfully written, very emotive and heartfelt; I know it will stay with me for a long time. Leila Mottley is a talented young author so I hope she keeps writing!
With grateful thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing UK for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley is an important story of cruel exploitation of society's most vulnerable but also of a powerful fighting spirit that should not be underestimated.

Kiara is seventeen and just managing to make ends meet living in an apartment in the Hi-Res complex, Oakland with her older brother Marcus after her mom leaves for rehab. 

Downstairs Dee lives alone with her son Trevor since her husband left. Kiara tries to look out for Trevor, as Dee is often away from home.

A major rent increase, forces Kiara to plead with Marcus to get a job before she looks for other ways to earn money; following an assault she finds herself being exploited by some corrupt Oakland police officers. 

Kia as she is now known could never have imagined the things she would have to endure whilst Marcus tries hard to make it big in the music industry.

This is such a powerful and painful story that it is hard to believe it is based on actual events. Many thanks to Leila Mottley for writing this superb book.
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Nightcrawling, whilst fiction, is inspired by a true story of sexual exploitation by Oakland police.

It's a tough read dealing with issues of race, sexual assault, poverty, parental neglect and parental death. Kiara is almost 18 and has experienced more than a young person ever should have to. Her father is dead, her mother is in a halfway house after an extremely tragic accident caused by her own negligence.  Kiara's older brother Marcus isn't showing up for her, and when their rent is doubled, Kiara in her desperation turns to prostitution. But events turn even darker when a cop blackmails her into providing services for other members of the Oakland force.

An internal investigation is triggered, and Kiara bravely testifies in front of a grand jury.

Despite it being a hard read, with so much trauma and injustice, Kiara is a brilliant character who shows kindness to her neighbour's son Trevor, beyond anything ever shown to her. And the author leaves us with a note of optimism when Kiara realises she is no longer facing the world alone.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

This story is heartbreaking to read, especially when you know it's based on true events. Mottley writes Kiara with so much empathy and sensitivity that it's easy to see how events escalated the way they did, due to our broken economy, housing and justice systems. The ending is raw and powerful, and I think this book is a must-read for the summer.
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