My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
Author: Brittney Morris
Format: Hardcover (own)
Categories: Gaming, Race, Racism, Relationships, Family, Friendship, Contemporary, Young Adult, Own Voices, Identity
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?
My Attention: Read in 1 day
World Building: Washington State
Writing Style: Kiera’s voice carries us through this story and it flowed so well, even when it was describing game play scenes which can get confusing as a non-gamer
Crazy in Love: Kiera and Malcom are definitely in love but they have challenges
Creativity: I loved everything about Kiera’s virtual reality game!
Triggers: racism, toxic masculinity
My Takeaway: Wear your crown!
- This story covers so many topics! Racism – Kiera and her sister are 2 out of 4 black kids at their school. Toxic Masculinity – in Kiera’s relationship with Malcom and when it appears in a male dominated gaming world. Identity – who is Kiera? She’s hiding this VR game she created, she’s smart, beautiful, and she has a great family and boyfriend, she seems to have it all – but her secret remains a secret because she doesn’t think anyone would understand it or accept her.
- Gaming is a big part of this story and I’ve been reading more books about it because my son is a gamer. I’ve learned more about how male dominated it in and how feels go through so much harassment as a gamer. So this story was so good because Kiera created this rich, lush virtual world based on black and African culture – a world where black people can feel safe playing in no matter what kind of black they are. But then the question of safety comes at the forefront when someone dies after playing the game…so yes to all the issues and questions that come up in this story! Safety, racism, toxic masculinity, responsibility, all in the gaming world.
- I love Kiera’s family – her parents have raised her as well as they could, and her sister, Steph always has her back. But there was a moment I teared up at the end, when she tells her parents why she never told them about the game and the pressure to conform to what they think is acceptable. Kiera poured her heart and soul into this game and to be afraid that her loved ones wouldn’t accept that – I felt her.
- There are parts of this book where some of the main gamers in Kiera’s game gets some book time. For Cicada/Claire, who is an African French national but half Italian, in her France she has to deal with French people assuming she was born somewhere in Africa. She’s smart, can speak many languages and has a mom who is dying in Italy. Then there is Spade, a businessman who plays the game to escape the everyday life. I loved that the gamers were all different ages all over the world.
- The search for Kiera’s black identity is a journey – for Kiera, I thought it was fascinating how she talked about being the voice of blackness at her mostly white school because she was one of the four black kids there. We see it in her relationship with her friend white friend, Harper. And then there is her boyfriend, Malcolm who is filled with goals and dreams to succeed as a black man in America. He has a plan for how this will happen with Kiera at his side…but will he accept her secret? The discussion in the news about if the game she created is racist because the game only allows black people to play…so much to think about and I loved that the book kept asking questions.
- The ending! It shocked me and bugged me a little because I didn’t expect it. Like, no, how could that happen?! It came near the end and we don’t get to see Kiera try to work it out fully. But wow…and yes I’m trying to be vague and not spoil anything!
Read it. Gamer or not, I think you can relate to people wanting their own safe spaces and finding their identity. The game Kiera creates is fantastic – the costumes and scenes that are describe in this world of Slay is something I would love to experience as well. Also, the game cards (the cards they use in a duel) are so cool and inventive! Most importantly though are the issues and questions this book touches on. Kiera is a Queen, in her game and outside of it. I’m definitely going to be reading more from Brittney Morris.
💕 ~ Yolanda