Okay, so here’s what you need to do. Please stop what you are doing right now, go HERE and please pre-order a copy of Slay by Brittney Morris.
It looks like this:
This is quite possibly one of the best YA reads for ages 12+ that I’ve got my hands on. It was passed to me courtesy of SLJ as an advanced reader. The book is set for release in September 2019 and you absolutely must pick this up.
Kiera Johnson is our protagonist. She is an honors student and math extraordinaire at Jefferson Academy by day, and an amazing coder and game developer by night. Jefferson Academy affords Kiera so many opportunities to better her education, but she is one of only a few black students there, a sure minority in a world that respects her ‘blackness’ but almost to a detriment. Kiera tends to become worn down by having to be ‘the voice’ of black people at her school, and tends to feel her minority status. Except, by night, when she can escape into a world that she has developed (a game called Slay), that celebrates black culture in all of its forms, providing Kiera with a safe space to simply be herself.
But this is jeopardized when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the Slay world. Suddenly, the eyes of the world are searching for the game’s developer and is laying claims of ‘anti-white discrimination.’ This exposes Kiera to a myriad of unwelcome attention and a whole lot of trouble, especially from the avatar Dred, an infiltrator to the game who threatens to defeat her in every way possible. Kiera must emerge from her secret identity and prove, once and for all, that she is Queen and that Slay is her world.
This is absolutely brilliant for so many reasons, many of which I’ll no doubt miss in this review. Kiera is intelligent, caring, lovable and relatable. Her family is supportive and understanding of her. This is the first sign that at YA book is doing well and not falling back on the ole “my parents just don’t get me” storyline. There are some conflicts to familial relationships but these are very realistically depicted without portraying a clueless parental unit or an annoying younger sibling.
Morris manages to construct an amazing romantic relationship with a very PG rated sexuality to it, but at the same time deals with very important and relevant issues of boundaries in this relationship and what it means when such relationships become destructive or abusive.
Even more so, Morris manages to address and discuss a myriad of issues related to race through an organic and well-developed plot. This is a story about womanhood, about intelligence, about being oneself, about what it means to compromise oneself to fit in, about hiding emotions and real personas, about sexuality, and about what it means when sex doesn’t excuse betrayal. This is the story of Kiera and her imperfect friends, trying to navigate a world where to be oneself, they must do so with excuses rather than unapologetically. It is a story about a young woman venturing into a life’s passion which is traditionally decidedly dominated by men.
I loved it.
The plot is page turning and has a great twist and Kiera is just fantastic.
Please pick this up, it’s well worth a read, and I’m so glad that SLJ sent me this advanced copy. A captivating and genuine story about a powerful, relatable character we’ll all relate to.