November 14, 2022 7:53 AM EST

Power, corruption, and survival are the driving forces at the heart of Leila Mottley’s debut novel Nightcrawling, which was longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize. In rapidly gentrifying Oakland, 17-year-old Kiara is trying to pay her family’s ever-increasing rent. Though Mottley’s protagonist is technically a teenager, she lost her childhood long ago: her Black Panther father is dead, her mother is incarcerated, and her brother is so convinced of his future rap career that he won’t get a job. When Kiara becomes desperate for cash, she’s forced to turn to sex work of a dangerously lurid bent—servicing local police officers. While this brutal tale is a searing indictment of an unjust system, it has roots in a sobering reality. Mottley, who wrote the book just after graduating high school, drew inspiration from a real-life sexual misconduct case in Oakland. —Cady Lang

Buy Now: Nightcrawling on Bookshop | Amazon

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