Happy Monday, bibliophiles! It has been a minute but I promise I’ve got a good reason – I’m seeing my parents after nearly two years!!! They live in Thailand and were supposed to visit me right before COVID hit and well…you can fill in the rest. Since I’m interning, I can’t really take time off work, so I’m doing my best to stay on top of everything while getting in some quality time with them. That being said, I’ve still got several review drafts waiting to be posted so I’ll do my best to keep the content coming whenever I can. Today’s review is of a book that I absolutely devoured and given its immense popularity, I’m sure that fact will come as no surprise to you – let’s chat about Ace of Spades by Farida Àbíké-Íyímídé.
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…
Overall rating: 4/5
Read if you loved: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Gossip Girl, Get out, Pretty Little Liars
Content warnings: Racism, homophobia, bullying (all content warnings not included due to risk of spoilers)
Okay so remember how I said that thrillers maybe weren’t my thing anymore? If you didn’t see that, then it doesn’t matter, because I take it all back. I stand before you, hat in hand, to tell you that I was wrong. Farida Àbíké-Íyímídé absolutely crushed this debut YA thriller – I could not put it down, I could not stop thinking about it when I inevitably had to put it down, and my heart was racing throughout the entire experience. Wow. It’s pitched as Gossip Girl meets Get Out and it is just as enthralling as you would expect the brainchild of both of those iconic works to be.
The drama. The suspense. The sheer depth of themes explored. This book is packed with content from start to finish and ends up being so much more than just a thriller. It explores classism, sexism, racism, homophobia, domestic issues, and so much more without feeling overwhelming. These topics are integrated seamlessly into the story and elevate the entire novel. I will warn you that it actually got a lot darker than I had expected, so please pay mind to content warnings as some scenes were quite difficult to read. It is, however, a very fast read. I devoured this book in 2-3 sittings and could have done so in less had I known to set aside a solid number of hours to do so. It’s that easy to get through and you won’t even feel the length. The pacing was perfection, the chapter lengths were short (my fav), and the plot moves so naturally through a complex storyline that is so engrossing.
What I didn’t like ultimately boils down to the YA-ness of this book so bear in mind that it is likely a me issue. The story is told from two POVs – popular girl Chi and quiet, scholarship kid Devon. I absolutely adored Devon’s chapters – he is layered, relatable, and so vulnerable, but then you have Chi who seems to be a combination of popular teen girl tropes with no real nuance. It was tough because I spent so much of the book hoping we would peel back her character and understand her a little more but in the end, I still found her to be relatively flat. There was so much I was hoping we would explore with her, especially her family, but it’s hardly addressed. All the other minor characters fall into this trap of being fairly stereotypical as well – Belle had real potential but she was not approached with the depth that I desired either. Anyways, I suppose that’s YA thrillers for you; both categories tend to suffer in the characterization department (in my reading experience) and this was no different. This brings me to my next and last critique – why do children in these stories NEVER tell their parents what’s going on? I mean, I know why, but it gets really difficult to move past when you have a family like Chi’s and it’s explained away by “they’re never home.” It was a thought that distracted me several times during her chapters and left me quite frustrated.
All that said, I would definitely recommend Ace of Spades – seriously, go read it. Not only is it so good but it’s so important. I can see why it’s gaining the praise that it is and I cannot wait to see what Àbíké-Íyímídé comes out with next. I’ll be waiting with bated breath.