"Growing up, I realized quite quickly that people hate being called racist more than they hate racism itself" - Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Summary: An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students' dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can't escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn't afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they're planning much more than a high-school game...
Ace of Spades is what most individuals look for in thrillers. It's engaging, it's creepy, it messes with your mind, and when the big reveal comes your jaw hits the floor. This book definitely has vibes that can be closely related to Get Out, Gossip Girl, and Pretty Little Liars, but it's so much more.
Ace of Spades is pure brilliance in terms of character development. The internal dialogue of both Devon and Chiamaka helps readers connect with them on a different level. They not only have their personal struggles, but struggles that deal directly with their experiences in school. This is extremely evident in their attempt to navigate a predominately White school as the only Black students. There is also a complex and dynamic conversation in the book surrounding intersectionality. Àbíké-Íyímídé does not shy away from showcasing the experiences of those that identify as Black and a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. These experiences greatly impact the character development of both Devon and Chiamaka. Àbíké-Íyímídé also creates polarizing differences between Devon and Chiamaka which leads to pockets of tension that play a significant role in the overall plot. Interestingly enough, it's easy to assume that people of the same racial group, particularly Black people, will instantly get along or have the same thought process in the time of a crisis especially those related closely to social issues. Àbíké-Íyímídé utilizes this comparing and contrasting as a reminder that Black people are not a monolith.
The pacing of Ace of Spades is interesting. It's crafted to be intentionally slow. This is extremely important as it allows readers to see everything unfold layer by layer. It ultimately allows the big reveals to have an unexpected shock value. What's even more creepy and frightening about this book is that it's not that far removed from things that have happened or things that could happen. Of course, some things are exaggerated for the purpose of the overall story, but there are many components that accurately illustrate the experiences of some Black youth.
The added social commentary regarding racism, classicism, privilege, and more take this book to another level. Honestly, if there is any book that you need to read before the year ends IT IS THIS BOOK.