Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

*The following blurb was taken from Amazon*

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?

I’ve seen this book pop up on all my social media for months now, so I was amped when my book club chose it as our bonus book this month. Because I’m allowed to buy new books when they’re for book club and it doesn’t break my resolution of trying to buy fewer books this year 😉

Alrighty, straight into my spoiler-free review. Even though this is not the type of book I’d normally gravitate towards as a contemporary YA novel, I absolutely love love LOVED this book. I am so impressed that it is a debut novel by a young writer who took on this project while she was still in school. Mind blown. One of the most enjoyable standalone novels I’ve read in quite some time.

Now, I’m not a Gossip Girl fan (never seen it), but this book DID bring me straight back into my high school adoration of the Private book series by Kate Brian. Chiamaka at the beginning of the book would have fit right in with the girls in that series. But I really liked reading a book from the perspective of the “queen bee mean girl”, and I was just really intrigued from the beginning about her motivations and her personality. Devon is pretty much the opposite: quiet, sensitive, content with being invisible and just getting through high school. The way that these two come together is very authentic and their reluctance to trust each other really makes the relationship they build by the end seem very earned. Overall, they were both well-rounded protagonists, and the side characters were all A+ as well.

In terms of pacing, I felt that this book was pretty fast-paced and engaging from the get-go. It took me about 40-60 pages to really get into, simply because it’s a bit of a genre departure from what I usually read these days, but I was invested into the mystery and the characters right away, and that’s certainly enough to get me through an initial genre-difference shock.

Overall I felt the themes of this story were really important. This is a story with POC and LGBTQIA+ topics, and as a cishet white woman I really cannot imagine what these characters go through, but I know that this kind of thing is real and out there and happening today, no matter how “progressive” we seem to be here in 2022. But ultimately this book is about black power and perseverance, and I cannot express how much I enjoyed it.

As much as I’d love to say more, I really don’t want to spoil anything because the payout is so high for the amazing mystery that debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé presents. All I can say is seriously, go read it.

# of Pages: 415

Time it took me to read: 4 Days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 59

Rating: 5 out of 5

Normally I try to recommend similar books to the one I just read, but I really don’t think I have any other that qualify that I’ve read recently, so I’m just going to recommend some of my other recent favorite debut novels by POC authors, so if you liked Ace of Spades, try:

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Rosanne A. Brown

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

The Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao

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