The heartbreak of the prologue was all too familiar — an unarmed Black teen, shot dead by a White police officer. And that is only the beginning of this emotional literary roller coaster ... I’m grateful for books like We Are Not Like Them — books with plots that dare us to look into our own hearts, then to challenge one another as we discuss the story lines. Perhaps these books will foster deeper discussions between Black and White readers and begin to heal the divide that burdens this country. Still, as much as I enjoyed reading We Are Not Like Them, and as much as I loved writing Stand Your Ground, my prayer is that one day this country will reach the point where novels such as these will come to be wholly imaginary rather than ripped from the headlines. Until then, it is important for these kinds of books to be written and published and promoted by Black authors and White authors alike. Every voice on this topic must be heard.
While the driving question of the novel is meant to be what will become of their friendship, the story is most affecting when the women are apart ... There are many intriguing facets of this relationship that might have further been explored, including the fraught, delicate class tensions between them...Instead, the novel gets bogged down in its reproduction of familiar lines about race ... The characters dispense the usual talking points, and the dialogue yields evidence of a divided America for any reader who isn’t yet convinced ... In the thick of the commentary, and Jen and Riley’s back-and-forth, our sense of Justin and of his mother, Tamara, get short shrift ... The details are endearing, vivid, but they aren’t enough to make Justin or his mother real, fully dimensional. He is a victim; she is a victim and survivor. Their losses are no more than the inciting incident for the drama between two friends, who by the end of the novel, have only just admitted there is a lot they need to talk about.
Coauthors Pride and Piazza explore how the sanctity of childhood friendship can be questioned and corrupted well into adulthood, and how violent racial injustice is ubiquitous in American life. We Are Not Like Them is spellbinding from cover to cover.
We Are Not Like Them is ultimately about the inherently hopeful act of having grace when the people we love make mistakes—even terrible ones. This is an excellent book club selection or a starting point for interracial friend groups or families to talk candidly about race.
On the downside, the setup seems a bit on-the-nose, and as the plot takes on everything from microaggression to profiling to lynching, the effect is sometimes a bit preachy ... On the other hand, this is an area where preaching and teaching can be forgiven. The most unlikely or at least unpredictable aspect of the story—a deep friendship that crosses both race and class boundaries—is the most interesting, as the women go from easily sharing jokes about Riley running on colored-people time and Jen being a trailer-trash Gwyneth Paltrow to having their connection become starkly politicized, public, and problematic. By keeping the friendship at the heart of the plot, the authors balance topical concerns with character-driven storytelling ... With its timely premise, clear-cut messages, and appealing female characters, this novel is bound for book-club glory.