Published by Hodder Children's Books on October 3, 2019
Black Panther meets Ready Player One. A fierce teen game developer battles a real-life troll intent on ruining the Black Panther-inspired video game she created and the safe community it represents for black gamers.
By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only black kids at Jefferson Academy. By night, 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.
But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals.
Driven to save the only world in which she can truly be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?
I got this beautiful UK paperback edition of Slay as a gift off my Amazon wishlist, and I was so glad to receive it! This is such a pertinent, wonderful book.
Applicable PopSugar 2020 Prompts: A book that passes the Bechdel test, a book about or by a woman in STEM, a book by a WOC
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
Kiera is a pretty amazing high school student. She’s smart, talented, and has big plans to go to Spelman in Atlanta to live with her boyfriend, Malcolm who will be attending Morehouse. She’s close to her sister Steph, and her best friend Harper (and, unfortunately, Harper’s brother Wyatt). But what everyone in Kiera’s life doesn’t know is that she’s created one of the most prominent virtual reality video games on the Internet – SLAY. A game made for the Black community, by the Black community, SLAY is a dueling card game crossed over with World of Warcraft, and Kiera’s joy – but she can’t share it with anyone. For one reason or another, nobody in her life would quite “get” that Kiera celebrates her Blackness this way. And so for now, she keeps it to herself, in her bedroom at night, chatting with her internet friend Cicada and the thousands of people who celebrate what she’s done for their community.
On one average day, tragedy strikes – someone crosses the Internet-reality border and murders a young teenager in cold blood over an in-game dispute, and suddenly Kiera is seeing her beloved SLAY maligned on television, calling it a racist, exclusionist club. But that wasn’t what Kiera had in mind at all – to her, SLAY is the one place on the Internet where Black culture can thrive without worry of oppression. What is she supposed to do now, when all she feels is guilt in her heart for creating what was supposed to be such a safe space?
The Bottom Line
Like The Hate U Give, SLAY is a book that deserves to be read by everyone. It taught me so much, not just about Black culture, but about the nuances, and the subtleties that might not be caught by others. We learn about how different people in Keira’s life define Blackness, and how they own it – there are so many layers, and it is so multifaceted. I felt so endeared to Kiera, who was such a strong heroine and a joy to be on this journey with. What was equally fun were the random chapters from other POVs interspersed through the narrative, letting us get to know a slice of life from other SLAY players. We really see through their eyes the impact that SLAY has had on them, even though Kiera has no idea just how powerful her reach is.
The message and importance of SLAY cannot be emphasized enough, and I think it would be very easy to approach and pick up by any middle or high schooler searching for a new read – the video game tie-ins make it compulsively readable, and this current generation of teenagers raised on Fortnite and Minecraft will have no trouble understanding what SLAY stands for. Brittney Morris holds indie video games near and dear to her heart, and it really shows – SLAY is a love letter to the craft, to women in STEM, to Blackness, and it deserves your attention.
“When I come home, I get to pretend I’m not the minority, that my super-curly hair isn’t “weird” or “funky” or “new and different.” White kids read so many books and watch so many movies about white teenagers “just wanting to be normal.” How do they think I feel?”