Slay by Brittney Morris
Review by Linz. Thanks to BookCon and Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster for the ARC! SLAY comes out Sept. 24; you can preorder here or likely with your local indie bookstore.
What it’s about (from Goodreads): “By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the ‘downfall of the Black man.’
But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for ‘anti-white discrimination.’
Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?”
What I drank: The FINEST of locally made bourbon
Feelings, So many feelings. I read SLAY, like, RIGHT after Patron Saints of Nothing, for which I had all the feelings x 10, so I’ve been on delay writing this reivew. I’ve hoesntly been a little nervous to write this like in the way uyou get nervous about starting naything new that is important to you and that you don’t wantt o fuck up?
– Kiera is an AMAZING female protag who is kinda nerdy and super smart but still care about her appearance and is socialized/ still have friends and still ahve a boyfriend who she GASP enjoys fooling around with. In other words, she’s is a realistica teen girl who doesnt fit any stupid archetype rolls. Who knew carachters could be multifacted?
– Diatribe: not that i want to read about teens fooling around in detail, awkward, but like…come on. i was a teenager once. we weren’t exactly holding hands for 2 years. so much YA just hasnt figured out how to write it?
- Honestly all these charaters are great even when they suck, they’re wellwritten and the key players are nuanced and fullformed
- STRONG FEMALS FRIENSHIPS i LIVE for a strong female friendship in YA. i’m not saying theyre easy, and not all of kiera’s are, but UGH I’m trying so hard to keep this spoilerfreeeee. so I will stop but know theyre done justice
- INTELLIGENT FEMALES IN STEM. Keira’s fellow SLAY admin is also a black female programmer, andt hey INVENT an ENTIRE computer game about teh Black experience, and then just…freely share it w the black community. With the little coding experience i have … the concept is breathdaking.
- Explainer: The game, btw, is pretty amazing. its a virtual reality roleplayer game where users duel using cards that have diff actions (kinda like D&D? i have never played D&D); some attack some defned but ALL of them are represntative of the american black experience, wheteher its major figures, fashoin touchstones or food (that one aunt’s potato salad, i dieeeeeeed).
- Malcolm, Oh Malcom, the first Bf. Maybe yuo didn’t date Malcolm (but you all kinda did date some part of Malcolm). I was fascinated with Morris’ portrayal of Malcolm and Kieras relationship
- Floop turns out i’m not even ready to start talking about the murder plotline here come the waterworks again
So, major point: the whole reason Kiera creates SLAY is bc she doesnt feel she or other black people have an experience that relatesto them in the gaming workld; she talks about racists torlling online chats in games and the lack of black cahracters in popular online games. (Which, you dont need to be a gamer to see evidence of taht these days.) So she creates this beautfil empowering safespace for all black gamers to nerd out and feel less “other,” and its stunning in everyway. And you meet these other gamers who are black, and how their identities differ, how they feel so other, but how all those identites still have a palce in the black diaspora. I am not black, and i will never full understnd the balck expereince bc I look white (i’m half-asian full disclsoure), but in my own small way i understnad feeling other in my own community, and this idea of inclusiouary spaces exisiting for “others” is so hoepful and lovely and made my agry heart 2 sizes to large.
(Also relatable – once SLAY hits the nwes, all these poeple WHO HAVE ENVER PLAYED IT start spoutingoff all these opinions that the game is offensive to black ppl but also racist for excluiding white people and omg. Like omg. if i had a penny for every fool who tried to explain to me my experience–sorry, i’ve read a lot of really good diverse books lately that have also maed me very angry at society and also people all of the time.)
ANYWAY, Ultimately this is just an insanely powerful wellwritten debut novel that did EVERYTING rght in discusing race, identity, and otherness and that i can’t believe is just a debut novel and i can’t believe i was lucky enough to get an arc. We nEEDED this book.
What I gave it: 5 STARS
What I would pair it with: Straight from the author’s mouth (and by that I mean via twitter): “Maybe something pink and yellow swirl, like a mango or raspberry daquiri?? Something fun and fruity? ^-^” Love. Love love love.