Seventeen year old Keira loves video games, or more specifically online role player games, but she quickly realises that these games aren’t welcoming to Black people after getting racial slurs in one game and the only dark-skinned character being a troll in the other. So she makes up her own character and develops her own secret game, a safe space for Black people online called SLAY.
Users battle against each other by drawing cards with special moves and each card celebrates Black culture (internationally, not just America). No one knows she is the game developer, not even her friends and family. Then the worst happens, a teen is murdered over coins in the game and suddenly Keira’s beloved game is headline news, with repeat discussions on whether it is racist, violent and exclusionary. On top of that an anonymous troll has somehow got into SLAY and is threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination”.
OH. MY. GOD. If this book isn’t on your TBR, get it on there right now. I’ll wait…
Have you added it?
I read 66% of it in one day and I only stopped because I needed to sleep (yes I know, sleep is for the weak, books come first…). This book explores safe spaces and how important they are for the minorities who use them and I will say, this book made me SO SO MAD. The way the media and society act when SLAY becomes public is so frustrating and unfortunately, so relevant.
No reverse racism isn’t a thing.
No white people cannot be discriminated against.
Yes, Black people are allowed a safe space where they can have just a *small* break from the absolute crap they deal with each and every day.
I loved that all the Black females in this book were strong and powerful in their own way. I especially loved Steph, Keira’s younger sister, who is always ready to put someone in their place, wants to discuss AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) at the dinner table and ultimately, always has Kiera’s back.
Keira’s best friend Harper is white and I think this was a really interesting relationship, especially when you add in her best friend’s brother, Wyatt. I think it helped add to the casual racism often experienced – at one point Harper asks Keira if it’s ok to get dreadlocks. Wyatt then overhears and wants to interview her and print her answer in the school newspaper… I think having these characters so close to Keira and Steph helped show that racism isn’t just this abstract thing – it also resulted in an amazing conversation where Steph lists off the reasons why SLAY isn’t racist to Wyatt.
Kiera, Steph and Kiera’s boyfriend Malcom are also the only Black students at Jefferson Academy and they all approach this fact in different ways and it is interesting to read how they all feel about being Black.
This is a fast paced rollercoaster of a book, with a mystery that develops meaning you won’t be able to put it down. I loved the writing style and it was so easy to imagine this wonderful online game playing out in virtual reality. It was an easy 5 stars and I can’t wait to read more by Brittney Morris!
Trigger Warnings: Racism, Racial slurs, Bullying, Child Death, Death, Emotional Abuse, Hate Crime, Toxic relationship, Grief.
Rep: Black Main Character