Release Date: June 10, 2021
Genre: YA Thriller, Dark Academia
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…
***ARC provided through NetGalley***
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is one of my most anticipated releases this year and I couldn’t wait to dive into this YA dark academia novel, debut. I was immediately drawn to the characters in this story. Readers follow two points of view, the only two Black students at Niveus, as their secrets are slowly revealed to the school and in the first half, there’s this unease that slowly builds until the second half where the tension really starts to pick up. Then, there’s a constant feeling of dread and hopelessness as Devon and Chiamaka try to figure out what’s happening and why. I’ve never read a young adult dark academia before and wasn’t sure what to expect and I was nervous there would be a lot of high school drama. I was wrong. There are elements of drama that happens in high schools but with the stakes getting higher and higher as the story continues, it’s so much more than that.
Further, I was also invested in the relationships the main characters had throughout the story whether it was with friends or family. As the story progresses, these relationships are challenged and things start to change. Devon and Chiamaka feel that they can’t trust anyone outside of their family and that feeling is passed on to the reader. I was questioning EVERYONE. When it comes to their families, they have to decide how much to tell them about what’s going on and how anything they tell them will impact them in the long run. I can’t spoil anything but the stakes are MUCH higher than you might think at the beginning of this story and I was racing to the end because I needed to have answers. And that ending… *chef’s kiss*.
I really appreciate what this book does thematically; the dark academia genre is incredibly white and sometimes fails to really critique the issues within academia. This story centers Black characters and deals with themes of institutional racism and how that racism is something that is passed down over generations. I was terrified for Devon and Chiamaka as they navigated this horrific situation and I think Àbíké-Íyímídé leaves readers with so much to think about. I highly recommend pre-ordering this book if you can, or just checking it out next month when it comes out.