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YA Review: Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Title: Ace of Spades

Author: Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Year Published: 2021

Category: YA fiction (mystery)
Pages: 432
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map)Undisclosed location

Summary (from Amazon): All you need to know is . . . I’m here to divide and conquer. Like all great tyrants do. ―Aces

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

Author Q and A (I don't normally post this, but for this novel, I think it really adds to it)
This is a very thought-provoking and timely novel. What inspired you to write this story?
I grew up in South London in an area known for its diversity. My high school was made up of mostly Black students, with a minority of white students. I had never experienced the feeling of being the only Black face in a white space until I moved to a small town in Scotland for university. I had a huge culture shock as I found myself in situations I had never been in before – such as going days without seeing another person of colour while also being stared at by everyone as I walked through campus – as well as new microaggressions. I felt so isolated, and started to watch Gossip Girl for the first time and instantly fell in love with the characters and the story. I really wished there was more diversity on the show and so I thought to myself, how cool would it be to write something like Gossip Girl, but with Black main characters? I’m also a huge fan of puzzles and stories that have deeper meanings, and before I knew it I had this whole wild idea for a story called Ace of Spades.

Characters Chiamaka and Devon are both complex yet relatable characters. What was your favorite part about writing them?
I am obsessed with the psychology behind the ‘mean girl’ and with Chiamaka, I really loved being able to challenge the idea that mean girls are one dimensional. Chiamaka’s ruthlessness is the result of her experience growing up as a Black girl in a very anti-Black world. With Devon I find writing his dry humour a lot of fun, and my favorite scenes are the ones where two personalities collide.

Aces is an anonymous figure shrouded in mystery who wreaks havoc throughout Niveus Academy. What do you want readers to walk away with about the effects of bullying?
I used to get bullied pretty badly when I was younger and even more than a decade later, it still affects the way I interact with others and how I perceive myself. I want people to know that bullying has long-lasting effects and can stay with someone for the rest of their life.

Review:  Ok. Look at that cover! It is so well done and really captures the feel of the book. I am so glad I read it! I saw this novel described as a combination of Gossip Girls and the movie Get Out, which is really accurate.

I like that there are two main characters that we get to know through alternating chapters. They both have depth and dimensions to them rather than just being stereotypical YA characters. Yes, she's a mean girl, but there's more to her than that. Yes, he is a gay young man, but he is also more. Once the two stories come together it's magic. The secondary characters, and there are quite a few of them, range from family to neighbors to fellow students and teachers, all who bring their own perspectives to the story.

I'd like to say the plot is fantastic and unrealistic because if it's real, it is truly scary. However, I am afraid that things like this happen all the time in old institutions when things change and disrupt the tradition, history, and comfort of those with power.

This book definitely feels personal and reading the author's story at the end (and a bit above in the Q and A) shows that she wrote this book during a difficult time in her life. I love that the process of writing this novel helped her to process what she was experiencing. And she's only just finished college when this was published! I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Big Book Summer--432 pages
  • Cloak and Dagger
  • Diversity--black characters and author

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