A great book to end a pretty good reading month with.
Black Panther meets Ready Player One. A fierce teen game developer battles a real-life troll intent on ruining the Black Panther-inspired video game she created and the safe community it represents for black gamers.
By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only black kids at Jefferson Academy. By night, 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.
But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals.
Driven to save the only world in which she can truly be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?
I have had this book on my TBR for such a long time and I am so surprised that it has taken me until now to get around to it, but what an absolute treat. The sign of a great book is when you lose track of time reading it and I honestly didn’t want to put this down, it has such a magnetic quality and any spare chance I had was spent reading it.
I absolutely loved the concept of this, that the world that Keira has created suddenly clashes with her real life, and causes so much tension between her and the people in her life. The game Slay, as well, is such a brilliant creation, I’m not a gamer, but I could easily picture the world and its different elements and it sounded like it would be an amazing game, especially the card duels, which were great because they gave me a little more insight into Black culture but also because they were fun to read.
The writing is easy and clear and whilst the story is told from Keira’s perspective, there is also the occasional chapter from a player that really helps to illustrate the reach of the Slay community and how it benefits its members. The book covers a lot of issues that Black people face in a way that I think will be very relatable for some readers and very eye-opening and informative for others, and I liked that there were challenges that Keira faces from both inside and outside her community because it highlighted the extra pressure that young Black women face.
Keira is such a strong character and I loved that by the end of the book we get to see her embrace that strength in all aspects of her life, she is resilient and very thoughtful towards others, even when she is not afforded the same. I really enjoyed the relationship with her sister because their journey in this book where they maybe don’t get along all the time, and sometimes Steph kind of takes the spotlight in their family, but are there for each other when it counts, is so reminiscent of the relationship between me and my sister.
Keira’s relationship with Cicada is also wonderful because it shows just how much of a relationship you can build with someone that you have never met, and how important and supportive these relationships can be. I kind of wish we got to know Cicada a little better because everything we got to know just made me want to know more, she is another strong and interesting character.
I am glad that this book doesn’t shy away from complicated relationships too, even though it was hard to read at points, because I could see Keira trying to bend herself to fit someone else’s narrative. I think it’s so important that it shows that you are not weak for wanting to believe the best in people even when they are showing a lot of red flags and that it is ok to need help in those situations.
It’s safe to say that I loved Slay and would highly recommend it to anyone.