By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is a college student, and one of the only black kids at Jefferson Academy. By night, she joins hundreds of thousands of black gamers who duel worldwide in the secret online role-playing card game, SLAY.
No one knows Kiera is the game developer – not even her boyfriend, Malcolm. But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, the media labels it an exclusionist, racist hub for thugs.
With threats coming from both inside and outside the game, Kiera must fight to save the safe space she’s created. But can she protect SLAY without losing herself?
I had a feeling I would like this book as I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. But it still managed to blow me away and surpass any expectations I had. We follow 17 year old Kiera Johnson, who is secretly the creator of a game for Black people, celebrating Black culture. She hides this fact from everyone, even her closest friends and family. But when something happens in real life that changes things forever, she finds her two worlds becoming closer and closer together.
I loved Kiera as a strong, Black, female protagonist. She had so much creativity, love and courage. I hope young girls read this story and look up to her, and see themselves in her and her sister, Steph. The relationship with her sister (and the rest of her family) was such a joy to read about and also felt authentic and relatable. Her friendships and relationships took just the right amount of focus in the story and propelled the plot without feeling planned or forced.
All I ever wanted to do was escape into this magical world where for once I don’t have to act a certain way because I’m Black,
The plot was one of the best parts of this book – it was very plot focused and fast paced, and my jaw literally dropped at some of the reveals. I thought I had everything figured out and BAM, I was hit with something so shocking and I could not put this book down. I buddy read this book with Alex, mostly in person, and I loved the experience of reading it together as we could not stop ourselves from gasping, getting emotional and becoming very, very angry at points in this book.
I have never known a YA book manage to balance intense, fast paced plot, imaginative world and nuanced and difficult discussions. There are so many important discussions about race, pride and love but none felt forced or inauthentic. Brittney Morris manages to strike an impressive balance between so many opposing aspects, alongside making me feel so emotional and connected towards the characters.
and where I don’t have to answer certain questions because I’m the Black authority in the room, and where if I do something that’s not stereotypically Black, I’m different.
Overall, this was astonishingly creative, vivid, beautifully written and had such important discussions about social issues and specifically, race. I am still blown away by this book – a new favourite for sure.
5 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽