“It sounds wild, I know, but racism is a spectrum and they all participate in it in some way. They don’t all have white hoods or call us mean things… But racism isn’t just about that – it’s not about being nice or mean. Or good versus bad. It’s bigger than that,” (Àbíké-Íyímídé 166).
At the prestigious Niveus Private Academy both Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, the only black students at the school, are chosen as senior class prefects. This isn’t a surprise for Chiamaka who has been working for this since starting at Niveus, with her goal of being accepted at Yale to one day be a doctor but does surprise Devon who tries to get good grades and keep his head down until her gets into Julliard. The promising start to their final year is cut short when anonymous messages from someone called Aces revealing personal secrets about them both to the entire school. With the secrets getting more and more personal and with no sign of stopping, Devon and Chiamaka are determined to stop Aces at all costs.
I went through a time of avoiding the Young Adult genre. When you’ve read one book, you’ve read them all. The tropes are predictable, even the characters become cookie cutters of each other, different names, different settings, same story. When I looked at the cover of Ace of Spades I was sure I had this book figured out, even despite the stellar reviews, and I have never been so happy to be wrong about a book. Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé creates a dark academic story that stands out amongst the masses, she plays with certain tropes found in the Young Adult genre before veering away and turning reader’s on a new, much more satisfying path. Àbíké-Íyímídé had me constantly second guessing my own biases towards what was going to happen in the story which made Ace of Spades such an exciting and enjoyable read.
I also adored both protagonists. Devon brings so much heart to the story, his great love towards his mother and brothers and his worries of coming out to her and being a disappointment is heartbreaking. Devon is a character who put so much pressure on himself, determined to make his family proud after the sacrifices they’ve made so that he can attend Niveus. He is the emotion of Ace of Spades that reader’s will feel so much for. Chiamaka is driven, type-A, and unlikeable, she knows what she wants and how she wants to get it and she will achieve her goals no matter what cost. I was so drawn to Chiamaka and I’m glad Àbíké-Íyímídé made her unlikeable, I find that a lot of criticism is given when authors write an unlikeable female protagonist and it’s refreshing that the author never attempted to change who Chiamaka was. Chiamaka is the logic and drive to Devon’s heart creating a perfect balance between our protagonists, I didn’t prefer one perspective over the other, they were both so interesting. It was also wonderful to follow two queer protagonists which only made me realize how much more I need to diversify my reading in so many more ways.
Some small criticisms would include the vagueness of the setting, I understand Àbíké-Íyímídé decision for it as she explains in her Author’s Note but , as another reviewer said, “just because a book is set in a school does not make it dark academia.” I’m fairly new to the dark academia genre, but this review really did put things in perspective of how widely the term gets thrown around these days. Ace of Spades definitely has more of a Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars vibe, neither of which I’d consider dark academia. I also don’t understand SPOILERS
how Devon and Scotty’s sex tape could be recorded, shared, and spread throughout Niveus without anyone considering that since the two were underaged it would be considered making and distributing child pornography SPOILERS but I also understand that a certain suspension of disbelief is needed at times in fiction, none of these criticisms made me enjoy the book any less.
Ace of Spades is a fantastic debut with the mystery of Gossip Girl and terror of Get Out. This book kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat and I can’t wait to see what Àbíké-Íyímídé has in store in the future.
Publication: June 1st 2021
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 432 pages (Hardcover)
Source: Gift (Thanks Kyla!)
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary, LGTBQ*
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤⛤
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?