Ace of Spades by Farida Àbíké-Íyímídé

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.

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?

With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

★★★★★

“This world isn’t ideal. This world, our world, the one with houses as crooked as the people in them. Broken people, broken by the way the world works.”

I devoured this book. I woke up this morning so excited because I’ve been counting down the days until it dropped, and within four hours of downloading it, I finished. Impossible to put down and presenting a genuine social commentary, I was blown away by just how amazing this book is. Touching on issues such as race, sexuality, class struggles, and mental health, this book is definitely worth the read.

Our protagonists come from different stations in life, one from poverty and one from generational wealth, but find themselves in the same traumatic situation: targeted by an anonymous group willing to ruin both of their lives. Both are hardworking students with promising futures, both are upstanding citizens who want the best for their world, both have secrets, and both are black.

We open on the first day of senior year for Chiamaka and Devon, a day that seems promising for both students, especially after both are chosen as Prefects. What neither child knows is that their lives will be forever changed before the day is out. We’re quickly sucked into the story, into learning about their secretive pasts and into trying to help them find out who is behind the group calling itself Aces. This novel pulls you to the edge of your seat and keeps you there as Chi and Devon seek justice against those who seek to destroy their lives, not only academically but in every way possible.

Without giving too much of the story away, we experience a story that is about so many important things, but race being the most important. Though it starts subtly and almost imperceptibly, even to our protagonists, racism is the central theme. It’s the driving motivation of the Aces, who almost immediately make it clear their targets are Devon and Chiamaka, the only two black students, the only two people of color at all, in the entire school. It’s a stark reminder of what our friends and colleagues who are POC experience on the regular: being accused of crimes they obviously didn’t commit, having to be overly cautious and polite during a routine traffic stop, being wary of most interactions and relationships they have with white people, and so many other things solely because of skin color.

Àbíké-Íyímídé delves even further into the issue of race by analyzing the differences between each class, highlighting how racism is experienced differently depending on one’s economic situation. Devon is used to more blatant, in-your-face racism that the working class is subjected to, such as profiling, stereotyping, and being seen as an outcast no matter how much he tries to make friends. On the other hand, Chiamaka is popular and comes from a wealthy family, so what she experiences is more subtle, like constant snarky comments and people keeping their relationships with her a secret. However, there are times in this story when status doesn’t matter for people of color, because black skin is the only thing needed to level an accusation (whether the accusation is justified or not). It’s another somber observation pulled from history a thousand times over.

Also touched upon in a respectful, yet thorough manner are sexuality, homophobia, mental health, poverty-driven desperation, and the justice system. Both protagonists are queer, both are driven to their breaking points mentally by the traumas they’re facing, and Devon experiences first-hand, in a few different incidents, just how unsupportive the justice system is of black folks.

Books like this are perfect examples of why we should all be interested in diverse reads. Representation for people experiencing these trials every day is important. The reminder for those of us who don’t experience them that people are hurting this way daily is important. This story is amazing in that it makes you laugh and cry and cheer alongside the protagonists, while also serving a sobering dose of realness that helps us put the world in perspective.

And lastly, the cover itself is gorgeous! I’m a sucker for buying books if only for the beauty of a cover and this is one of the prettiest I’ve seen of late. Elegant, eye-catching, and full of relevant visuals, this cover is everything an author could hope for. Is this book still great without the cover? Abso-freaking-lutely. Does this awesome, visually-pleasing cover only add to reasons to buy it? Yes!

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