The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Categories: Thriller, Horror
First Publication Date: June 1st 2021
I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and after reading it I can say that it definitely belongs in the best-of-2021 category for me! I started it expecting it to be a thriller, but I think this book is better described as a slow-paced horror with thriller elements (mostly by the end of the book). We follow Nella, as she navigates the very white world of publishing on a meager salary, and is super excited when another black girl, Hazel, joins her team. But after some things happen, Nella starts suspecting this new girl might have an agenda. And when Nella starts receiving threatening notes on her desk, she thinks it definitely can’t be Hazel, can it?
The tension is high way before the notes even start coming in, with the microaggressions Nella suffers in the office and a vague hint at something having “happened” to a famous black editor decades ago at that same publishing house. The story also has the points-of-view of other characters who start explaining a bit of what is going on behind the scenes and the terrible things that Nella has no idea are coming. This juxtaposition meant that every time something, even small things, happened on Nella’s POV, I was super tense.
To be honest, I did not like these other points-of-view much, since they basically only served the purpose of filling the reader in bit by bit. It felt to me like it broke the narrative, and they also confused me a lot with half-information. I would have preferred to have only Nella as a narrator, or Nella and Kendra only.
And the plot twist is, whew, a wild ride! I was a bit skeptical at first, but eventually I was completely won over, because the implications of the twist are just so completely terrifying, and the parallels with what black people actually go through made this even more chilling. I also completely agree with the Get Out comparison, The Other Black Girl definitely gives Get Out vibes. I was completely hooked by this book and I think it’s a very strong debut! I very much look forward to what the author comes up with next.