Summary: Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.
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?
With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.
Not gonna lie even though I was interested by the summary, I wasn’t sold. But I decided to go through with reading it anyway and I’m honestly left spellbound by this powerful debut. It sucked me in with interest and fear and only left me after I’d read the book in almost a sitting.
Ace of Spades is a twisty, gripping queer YA academic thriller confronting the themes of systemic racism and white supremacy that leaves you shocked and disturbed. It’s about two Black students fighting for their future in an institution and surroundings hell bent on bringing them down.
Switching between two POVs — Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo — Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé does a great job at providing distinct character voices. They showed the different, contrasting experiences of minorities (Chiamaka being rich and biracial, Devon being poor) and perceptions of the society.
Chiamaka, outspoken and arrogant, willing to do whatever it takes to be on top and be not be considered as other. She gave major Blair Waldorf vibes in the beginning chapters. I loved that through her character we’re shown how Black people have to bury their real selves and conform to white societal standards; from changing their hairstyle to policing of Black bodies. The story also explores Chi’s sexuality, how she only had boyfriends to maintain a status and later come to an understanding of the kind of relationship she wants.
Devon with passion for music, saw the world for it was and deals with all its unfairness, racism and classism if it means he could support his family. His character explores what it means to be Black and gay for him, being a scholarship student.
❛I’ve spent so long building up an image of myself at school – an indestructible two-dimensional mask – that I forget sometimes it’s only me who sees behind it, sees who I actually am.❜
They are both complex and flawed characters with clear motives. Seeing their friendship evolve, based off a need to survive and finding comfort in being Black, is a smooth transition. They didn’t get along at first but you see how they gradually start looking out for each other because they’re the only ones who can do so. I really enjoyed reading from both their perspectives, giving the story a smooth narrative.
The story is well paced. As the Aces start playing out their vile cards, xoxo gossip girl style, it becomes engrossing and addictive, the exact feeling as watching a mystery show and wanting to know what worse happens next. It’s genius, how all the clues and text messages are dropped and continue to mess up things for our protagonists. It made me anxious because I soon realised nobody could be trusted.
What’s more genius is how Faridah incorporated social commentary along with the thrill. The book grapples with a whole lot of horrifying but relevant facts. Academia is majorly white washed and classist, in desperate need of diversification and Faridah does exactly that. She challenges the prejudice the characters, or even people in the real world, face due to racism, classism, elitism and homophobia.
It unapologetically explores the terrible nature of white supremacy, institutionalized racism and educational gatekeeping that takes a toll on the lives of Black people. We’re shown the various micro and macro aggressions faced by them simply for having a darker skin colour. The injustice Devon and Chi face from people they considered friends and family is rattling to read about not just because its fiction but because it a harsh reality.
❛Growing up, I realized quite quickly that people hate being called racist more than they hate racism itself.❜
I applaud that the book included using social media as a tool for activism and raising awareness or educating the masses. The queer romantic subplots and their emotional impacts were the happy moments in the book.
My only tiny complaint is that the climax felt too easy. With a great build-up I expected a strong way of outing the antagonists but it was wrapped up quickly. I wouldn’t want it go a different way but I would’ve liked if it was prolonged a bit. But! The epilogue is brilliant!! The perfect, twisted ending a book like Ace of Spades could’ve got.
Thrilling and provoking, Ace of Spades is a debut sure to take over the hearts of readers. If you’re looking for a mystery/thriller book with a dark academia setting and exploration of relevant themes in the most realistic way, I cannot recommend this enough to you!
Thank you Usborne Publishing and Netgalley for the ARC!
❛I have to stop myself from apologizing – because what would I even be sorry for? Existing too loud?❜