Author: Brittney Morris
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Published: September 24th, 2019 (Simon Pulse)
Synopsis: By day, 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 “anti-white discrimination.”
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?
Thank you to the publisher, Simon Pulse, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Kiera Johnson is a high school student who has secretly developed an online game called Slay to create a safe space for black gamers in a community that is not all that inclusive for them, a game specifically for black people. But when a tragedy occurs over a dispute in the game, and a player is murdered, news of the game is made public, and Slay is labelled as a racist and violent game by the media, despite never having played the game themselves. What’s worse, if her identity as the developer of the game is revealed, she even might face a lawsuit.
Slay is more of a character driven book rather than plot driven, which is not a bad thing, per se, but I really would have liked to know more about the other parts of the story, particularly the game itself (because honestly, the first thing I thought of when I read the blurb for this book was Warcross). More attention to other aspects of the story would have also helped the pacing a great deal, which felt significantly slower in some parts.
The main thing I found annoying about this book was the multiple POVs sprinkled in without any warning. Often it took atleast a page or more before the sudden switch in perspective made sense, not to mention that that one chapter is all we get to hear from that character in the entire book. It was a nice touch though, that these POVs were from black gamers who play Slay all around the world.
My reaction to this book was, in some ways, very similar to The Hate U Give, in the sense that neither book was really written for me, but I enjoyed reading them all the same. While many of the references relating to black culture and history in Slay were unfamiliar to me, I still understood and appreciated the messages it is trying to convey.
Slay is a powerful read, and one that makes you think. It gets into a wide range of topics apart embracing your identity, such as online bullying and racism, but despite its heavy content, this is an engaging read. Slay is definitely not the usual type of book on my reading list, but I am very glad that I decided to step out of my comfort zone with this one and I would say this is a must read for this year. Highly recommended!
Slay releases on September 24th, 2019.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!