by Tony Conty (Parkville, MD): “We Are Not Like Them” by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza has an explosive premise that will make it the water cooler book that “The Hate You Give” was. Two life-long best friends (one black and one white and, yes, their race matters) faced a crossroads when the white one’s husband shot an unarmed black kid in the line of duty. Emotion is high at the story’s beginning, and your mind wanders to how the characters feel instead of what is happening.

Jenny, the cop’s wife, has a single-minded focus with a baby on the way. Riley, the reporter, is responsible for the truth and her race. As a local sports writer stated, both sides may be opposed but acting perfectly rationally. Kevin, the police officer, has an element of guilt that would raise a reaction out of the ardent “Blue Lives Matter” and “Black Lives Matter” communities.

You should read this book either way if you believe you have a “side” in this debate. As a relatively liberal white male, I had a good idea about the argument for the innocent kid. However, promoting empathy for the police officer and his family takes more skill. I could not stop thinking about both of the protagonists and their lives. Imagine being pregnant while all of this went down when you had nothing to do with it.

Above all, this is a novel about friendship. We establish bonds over the years and feel that nothing can break them until an unspeakable tragedy puts that to the test. Where does your loyalty lie when it conflicts with another relationship? Riley and Jen’s interactions inspire you. Even though logic tells you their friendship cannot survive this controversy, you root for them and enjoy seeing the smallest act of kindness.

I think the ending will frustrate some people and cause some water cooler conversations that do not end well. The more you read, the less you can imagine a perfect solution. I expect some polarization. One should not go into this with the feeling that you want the book to echo their sentiments and exactly how you want it to go down. Jen and Riley are mature enough to know of no easy answers, and the reader may need the same grace.