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 was sent an ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review – big thank you to Usborne for granting me early access*
Ace of Spades is an inventive, searing and brilliantly paced debut novel, which was genuinely hard to put down. Prior to reading I saw this being pitched as Get Out meets Gossip Girl and it was definitely a clever mix of the two but also thoroughly unique and Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé has crafted something truly special with this book. It’s a truly impressive feat and I can see this book being huge on release and deservedly so.
One of the most striking things about this novel has to be the way Íyímídé explores race and the pervasive nature of racism and white supremacy. Íyímídé uses the tried and tested tropes we all loved in Gossip Girl but charges her narrative with social commentary and powerfully so. I also really appreciate how this is Dark Academia which actually examines the white centered nature of much academia in real life as well as the sub genre which has cropped up over the past few years.
I really don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone but trust me when I say that you’ll think you have it figured out, but it gets darker and deeper than you could possibly imagine. Íyímídé isn’t afraid to delve deep and reflect the stark realities of institutional racism and how it affects Black people every single day. There is complexity and layers here in abundance, from educational opportunity, the policing of Black peoples hair, bodies and so much more. It makes for an absolutely intense ride and Íyímídé is masterful at developing tension and suspense. I quite literally read this in one day because I couldn’t bear to put it down.
Chiamaka and Devon are the only two Black students at Niveus academy, but their lives could not be any more different – Chiamaka comes from a wealthy family and is at the top of the social hierarchy, and has done everything she can to get there. Devon comes from the less privileged part of town, is at the school on a scholarship and tries his best not to attract attention from his classmates. I enjoyed how the characters eventually banded together to uncover the identity of Aces and figure out why they seem to be the prime targets of these vindictive attacks. It was interesting to see them connect and build a friendship and confide in each other despite their initial disregard for each other.
The build up of the story is indescribable and I quite honestly can’t express how suspenseful and intense it all is, with the culmination being something beyond what I ever expected. I picked up the breadcrumbs here and there but didn’t pin down the full scope of it all. I realise I’m being vague here but trust me this is a finale you won’t want to see coming, it’s best appreciated with a fresh pair of eyes.
Overall, Ace of Spades is an incredible debut novel and is definitely one of my top reads of 2021 – if you’re into thrillers with high stakes, exploration of real issues and tension which never lets up building up to a killer ending. This is a book you simply have to read!
Until next time,