Okay, Ace Of Spades was ‘recently released’ when I planned this post, but I forgot to factor in the time it would take to actually read and then review it. And… now it’s September. But that in no way takes away from how spine chillingly brilliant Ace Of Spades was.
Name: Ace Of Spades
Author: Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Published: June 2021
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…
I had had Ace Of Spades on preorder for a very long time. I preordered it as soon as I saw a description for this queer YA thriller where Get Out meets Gossip Girl that looks at institutionalised racism – it sounded like nothing I’d ever read before. I was right.
At first, I’ll admit I was a little bit disappointed. It certainly had elements of both Gossip Girl and Get Out in it, but that seemed to be the problem. It felt so inspired by both that the boarding school setting; the rich kid – scholarship kid dynamics; the character relationships, didn’t feel like anything new. I could name similar secrets in various other YA books. I really shipped Chiamaka and another character but I thought that only I and a few avid fan fiction writers would ever see a relationship into fruition.
But then! Then! It went from pretty good to brilliant in about ten pages. Ace of Spades was one of the strongest turn-arounds I’ve ever read, and it went from strength to strength. The message was powerful from the very start and I was intrigued by all the side characters.The two main characters, Chiamaka and Devon, have different but very well developed problems and personalities. Chiamaka knows what she wants and whilst she wasn’t always likeable in her ‘step on others to the way to the top’ attitude, it made for an incredibly bingeworthy read. As did the plot twists (but more on that later). Devon was such an interesting character and broke my heart in so many ways. I loved his family focus. I was drawn towards both of them and their romantic relationships – the book keeps you on your toes in every aspect, including romance. There’s no one you can trust.
Ace of Spades was a solid 4 stars for the first seventy five percent. But then the LAST twenty five percent. I can still remember the exact moment I read the plot twist – I sat bold upright and read the rest of it in one sitting (and that hasn’t happened for a while). Purely addictive. I didn’t predict the massive twist but I did some of the smaller ones, which was satisfying. The nature of the plot twist make you question everything and I was too busy not trusting everyone that I didn’t suspect anything near the end either…
It was very difficult to give an overall rating for Ace of Spades. You can find my post on difficulties picking between four and five stars here. Like I said before, I had mixed opinions in the beginning and the middle felt like it dragged a little but the end was explosive. The message is incredibly powerful. The queer rep is also brilliant and every side character without failure had me captivated. Ace of Spades is a creepy, gripping thriller that I’d recommend to absolutely anyone. We should all read this book, and more like it. I think Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is an extremely strong new voice in Young Adult fiction and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
Ace of Spades covers a lot of heavy topics, including racism, bullying, homophobia and suicide. There is a full list of Trigger Warnings on the Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s website (and on a scannable QR code in the book which I’ve never seen before). I don’t feel like I can comment on how it deals with institutionalised racism, because there are so many other voices that could give you a better understanding. You can find Faridah talking about what inspired her to write the novel in a Nerdist article here. Ace of Spades made me want to do more research into how racism affects education, and you can find The Conversation’s article on institutionalised racism in British universities here. You can find a Guardian article on why white people just reading about black stories isn’t enough here.
While the diversity in my book recommendations is nowhere near perfect, I’m always trying to read books about challenging subjects. Some young adult books I’d recommend that tackle racism include:
- Pet by Awaeke Emezi
- Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Noughts And Crosses by Malorie Blackman
- Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
- You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson
- A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
- Hani and Ishu’s Guide To Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Have you read Ace Of Spades? Would you like to? Let me know in the comments!