Author: Brittney Morris
Genre: YA contemporary?
Release Date: September 24th, 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: ARC from publisher which did not influence my opinion
My rating: 5 stars
seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and
one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins
hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian
personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY.
No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family,
not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially
responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”
But when a teen
in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the
game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist,
exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an
anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for
Driven to save the only world in
which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and
harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world
intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing
herself in the process?
This was such an amazing #ownvoices story! The author was able to pull in so many issues that teens, as well as even adults in this day and age are thinking or feeling or dealing with. And she touched on all of them in what I felt was probably a pretty realistic way. This video game wasn’t one that had a bunch of killings and senseless violence, it was a card duel type of game, one that used so many different “Black” customs and history in ways that were definitely tongue-in-cheek for those familiar with the terms or even just very, what’s the word, something like complimentary, but that’s not really what I’m trying to say. I don’t feel that in any way these things were done in an offensive or insulting way, it was like loving all the parts of yourself, as well as those who are alike and different. The book touched on many hot-topics or sensitive subjects that seem to remain no matter what. Like cultural appropriation, is it “okay” for white people to get dred-locks? Or is it even right to ask one person of a culture if it is okay, because should they be the ones to have to speak for everyone? There was the bit about having a game “just” for the black people. So many times you hear people talk about this with things like colleges and clubs. Mixed race couples. On the one hand, why shouldn’t someone be able to love whoever they want? But is it okay for a black man to think black women and men should only be together, that it is diluting their race to mix with white or other people?
The number of controversial topics and hot button issues touched upon in this story is amazing, but also so ideal for the current political and cultural climate. This book was not just really deep, it had great characters and action going along all the way through. I could barely put it down when I had to do things like eat or sleep or work. I can’t wait to purchase a couple copies of this for my school library where I work. And I will get more than one copy, because I can see this being one several students will want to read at the same time once word gets around.
Oh, one thing though, I think the word “ain’t” had been around long before ebonics or the AAVE are considered to be started. But I could be wrong! Makes me want to do my research!