Book Review – Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Expected publication date, 10th June 2021

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The story follows teenagers, Chiamaka and Devon as they navigate their way through private school somewhere in America. Where Chiamaka is wealthy, beautiful and popular, in that way that mean girls are usually popular, Devon is a scholarship student. He doesn’t make waves, doesn’t make friends, he just keeps his head down and makes the most of his educational advantages, so he can give his mother and younger brothers a better life.

As the only Black students in their year group, Chiamaka and Devon work very hard at school but, as previously indicated, where Devon spends much of his time in the music room, working on the masterpiece that might just get him into Juilliard, Chiamaka focuses on the sciences but knows how to play the game. She has boyfriends who make sense. She might not like them very much, but she picks just the right chap at any given time to propel her to the top of the academic food chain.

And then, the messages start. No one lives without secrets, and between them, Devon and Chiamaka have some doozies, things they wouldn’t want their parents to know, things that could keep them out of college, things that could ruin them. And as time moves on, and the campaign steps up a gear or two, it seems the major thing linking the subjects of scandal is their Blackness. But that’s not the world we live in anymore… is it?

The story is relentless, it grabs hold of the reader and doesn’t let go, I was thoroughly absorbed. I’ve read a good amount of YA literature; I never really think it’s for me – I’m far too old these days and reminders of school are often unwelcome – but I LOVED this book. It’s beautifully written. I liked that the setting was sort of mid-Atlantic – that it read as American with some British traditions just made it feel all the more like a fancy-pants private school to me.

The characters were really well-crafted, completely believable and very effective communicated. There were moments of unexpected humour, which I really appreciated, but the subject matter is heavy, and it needs to be. The subject of racism is not one that can be cheered up or made in any way easier, but it is handled with such finesse, I was astonished.

It’s not a small book, but as I was heading towards the last few chapters, I couldn’t think how the author was going to finish in time. I needn’t have concerned myself. Ms Àbíké-Íyímídé writes with assurance and flair, she has crafted a compelling narrative, with a vitally important core, and that ending floored me.

Highly recommended. You must read this.