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Book review: Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

The author of Nightcrawling, Leila Mottley, conceived the idea for the novel after hearing a news story in her home of Oakland in the US.

The story was about a girl who was sexually exploited by members of the police force.

It has become a convincing and moving story about Kiara, who becomes embroiled in the world of sex work as a 17-year-old, leading to her exploitation by officers who she knows by badge number, not name.

However, Mottley’s novel is just as much about the other people surrounding Kiara, including the neighbour’s neglected son who Kiara cares for like a surrogate mother.

Then there is the sad and complicated story of Kiara’s own family – a dead father, a mother who is in jail after committing an awful crime, and a brother who has failed to recover from the shock of each.

Throughout the novel, Kiara continues to be the victim of her difficult circumstances. While it might seem like she is making decision, often they are made out of desperation and a paucity of alternatives.

Mottley is impressive in this depiction of poor decisions made when there is no real opportunity to decide otherwise.

It also remains hopeful, with love overriding despair, and often a motivating force for Kiara, whether it is in looking after her neighbour’s son or supporting her brother.

Another appealing element of the book was the colloquial language that Mottley uses. It took a while for me to settle into the different expressions that I assume would be familiar to an Oakland resident of a certain age, but once I did, it really added to the picture of Kiara that I had in my head.

I really enjoyed Nightcrawling, and the way it really brought to life the human behind the headline.

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