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!

A Court Of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.


“That’s the key, isn’t it? To know the darkness will always remain, but how you choose to face it, handle it… that’s the most important part. To not let it consume. To focus upon the good, the things that fill you with wonder.” She gestured to the stars zooming past. “The struggle with that darkness is worth it, just to see such things.”

Though the ACOTAR series is what got me back into reading after not doing so for years, I really didn’t have the highest hopes for this book. Like most people who enjoyed the series, I wasn’t completely stoked to have a Nesta book because she wasn’t really a standout character. However, I’m incredibly glad I gave this story a chance. It quickly became my favorite in the series and one of my favorite books ever. The plot isn’t as fast-paced as the other books in this series, but it does keep you intrigued.

Nesta’s mental health journey is so incredibly relatable that its almost hard to believe that part is fictional. In her lowest lows, Nesta isolates herself and has self-destructive tendencies that feel familiar. Things get better at a believable rate, with a mix of good days and bad days and everything in between. Her triggers and flashbacks are done so well that they seem plausible. Everything Nesta goes through feels real; we heal with her instead of just reading it. While every mental health journey is different, its easy to put yourself in her shoes if you’ve experienced mental illness and healed yourself of some serious traumas. Most of us haven’t been thrust into a magical cauldron and stripped of everything we know, but we do know what its like to lose ourselves and have to find our way back.

We see genuine friendships form, rather than friendships of convenience or political gain. And it warms my cold, sometimes-dead heart that some of the bonding in those friendships is done through an unofficial book club, because what better way to get close to your friends than sharing silly smutty books? In addition to new characters, we get to see some old favorites in a new light, rather than through Feyre’s rose-colored glasses. With a different perspective, we get to experience the growing and healing of characters we didn’t realize were in need of it.

I should probably include a warning that this book is not YA. While most readers are probably aware of this, especially if you read the whole ACOTAR series (which starts out YA and gradually becomes a little more mature), I have seen this marketed online and in my local bookstore as Young Adult. I know that a lot of readers are mature for their age and have most likely read worse, but I honestly just don’t want some poor kid blindsided by the ~sPiCy SceNeS~ in this book.

If you couldn’t tell, I definitely recommend this book. It deals with mental illness in an incredibly relatable way, which is so important to me, and it has an interesting plot that ties into the rest of the series without completely rehashing the old issues. And honestly the spice doesn’t hurt either *imagine I inserted that sly-eyed emoji here*.

There are so, so many quotes I love from this book, but I think SJM gave us the best in the form of her dedication:

For every Nesta out there—climb the mountain.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a profound coming of age story and haunting mystery. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The story asks how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group. The clues to the mystery are brushed into the lush habitat and natural histories of its wild creatures.


Though I’m generally an emotional reader, its not often that I read a book that makes me really ugly-cry. Both a coming-of-age and a murder mystery, it pulls you in and keeps you invested in a way that few books seem to do, breaking your heart and keeping you guessing until the very end.

One of the most prominent threads of this story is the theme of loneliness and the effects it has on our development, even once we reach adulthood. Left by the only people she’s ever loved, Kya eventually finds herself utterly alone before the age of ten, raising herself in a small patch of marsh. Wildly intelligent and resourceful, she has to learn how to survive on her own in the wild, untouched wetlands. In learning how to get along as best she can, Kya also finds that family isn’t always those you’re related to, but rather the people who quietly look after you as best they can. Though guarded and determined to live on her own, Kya does eventually form relationships, and like the rest of us, she has to learn to navigate those relationships and decide if they are beneficial or not. It’s definitely a story of found family, of finding belonging when and where you least expect it.

She attends only one day of school before deciding that the prejudices she faces from those in town are too much, but her education is far from over. With the help of a good friend and sheer determination, Kya quickly becomes an expert on all things marsh. The author not only develops Kya’s expertise in a wholly real and believable manner, but also gives us a beautiful ode to nature and all things wild. Owens waxes poetic about seemingly ordinary, often overlooked natural phenomenon, such as the beauty of maple tree seeds filling the fall air or the daily habits of the seabirds that Kya feeds.

While we are watching Kya grow and change and fall in love with the marsh, we’re also trying to solve the murder mystery that is so awesomely entwined. A young man from a prominent family in town dies under mysterious circumstances and has a mysterious connection to our outcast protagonist. From the jump, Kya is a main suspect and is even put on trial by the end of the book, though we see that the townspeople don’t really care about giving her a good and fair trial. After years of thinking (and saying) terrible things about, and to, Kya, we as readers realize that the odds are not in her favor, whether she’s actually committed the crime or not.

If you couldn’t already tell, I’m deeply in love with this book. I finished this book over 24 hours ago and my mind is still wrapped up in all the what-if, why-not scenarios. But I should warn you again: if you do heed my recommendation, be prepared to tear up on multiple occasions and have tissues ready for the end. Its poignant, triumphant, and deeply effected me, but it was so worth the heartbreak.

“Lot of times love doesn’t work out. Yet even when it fails, it connects you to others and, in the end, that is all you have, the connections.”