3.75 "SLAYing" Stars!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 April 2020
I enjoyed SLAY far more than I expected to, which is really surprising considering I went into this novel with very low expectations; SO low that I questioned WHY I picked it up in the first place, and I would not have been surprised whatsoever if I ended up DNFing it. I was not interested in reading this story, yet I was only two chapters in when I found myself not wanting to put it down.
I can't pinpoint what it is exactly that kept me hooked - considering the writing itself is (IMO) nothing special, and the plot is unique but very young YA (which I've outgrown) - yet something did keep me hooked, so much so that I was completely entranced by this story until the very end.
Kiera Johnson just wants to play video games where people of colour are treated fairly, and racist slurs aren't constantly being thrown her way. With none currently available, she decides to take matters into her own hands, and create a game of her own: SLAY. The intention is to make it a safe place for black people (only) to play and duel, and be themselves without the worry of being treated differently simply because of the colour of their skin.
But when a young man is killed and the motive behind it surrounds SLAY, it causes a big controversy surrounding the game. Debates rise that it's problematic, dangerous, and racist, and through it all Kiera has to fight to keep SLAY from being shut down both from beyond the game, and from within.
-- "King and queens, you know the drill. We are here first and foremost to celebrate Black excellence in all its forms, from all parts of the globe. We are different ages, genders, tribes, tongues, and traditions. But tonight, we are all Black. And tonight, we all SLAY." --
I enjoyed the gaming aspect of SLAY, along with the action to the story surrounding Kiera fighting for the game she created not just for herself, but for millions of other people around the world too.
And I REALLY enjoyed the chapters to this story that were told from fellow SLAYer's perspectives, where we see just how meaningful and special and impactful the game is to others, and how it is what Kiera created has helped them be themselves in a virtual yet safe environment, where others don't make them feel uncomfortable simply because of who they are, and the colour of their skin.
The only flaw I found in SLAY was the fact that the majority of the secondary characters - mainly Harper and Wyatt (and Malcolm, though for different reasons) - were not only incredibly toxic for Kiera (and I REALLY questioned her sanity for surrounding herself with them), but they (to me) were only really brought into the story when it was relevant, and even then they didn't really play much of a part in SLAY, other than to make problematic comments that were just not necessary. I mean, I can see WHY Brittney Morris included these moments as it put more motive behind Kiera's decision to create SLAY. But to have Kiera's "friends" make these comments? I just didn't like that. I didn't like THEM, and I feel like if you took Harper and Wyatt out of the story, there'd be little to no difference to the main plot whatsoever, and my rating may have even been higher than my 3.75 Stars.
But other than that, SLAY was AMAZING! It was original, imaginative, fast-paced, and had more to the story than I expected. It also had one hell of a twist delivered towards the end of the book that really took me by surprise, and left me absolutely speechless.
I loved Kiera, I loved Claire - a friend of Kiera's and a developer of SLAY - and I just really enjoyed this story overall, and I'm now very excited to see what it is Brittney Morris delivers next.