I really wanted to love this book. The hype around it (“Get Out” meets “The Stepford Wives”) made me think it would be right up my alley. This is the story of Nella, an editorial assistant at Wagner Books, a prestigious and very white publishing firm in New York. Nella is tired of being the only black employee; her colleagues are not so much overtly racist as cluelessly biased. Nella is also tired of grinding as an assistant for so long, and eager to get the chance to move up and edit a book on her own.
When Hazel starts at Wagner, Nella is excited to have another Black woman working at Wagner, especially one who grew up in Harlem, wears her hair in locs, and exudes cool. But things start to take a turn when Nella discovers an anonymous note on her desk, telling her to “Leave Wagner. Now.” Who left the note? Was is Hazel, who seems to be getting along at Wagner much better than Nella ever has? Was it someone else at Wagner, who has decided that two Black women in the office is one too many?
It’s an interesting set up, and I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes of New York publishing. As a white woman, I’m never going to know first-hand what it’s like to be the only minority in a white space, but I appreciated Nella’s perspective. But at the same time, the whole middle section just dragged for me. While most of the book is from Nella’s POV, there are short sections throughout from a variety of other character POVs, and the switching back and forth sometimes felt choppy and hard to follow. There is a nefarious plot, which I found both unbelievable and also kind of boring? And finally, the ending didn’t really work for me.
This may have just been a case of reader/book mismatch, and maybe I’m not the target audience, but this one just didn’t live up to the hype for me.