I had the highest hopes for Slay as it is one of my most anticipated reads for Fall. And I was not disappointed! Talk about a book that deals with cyber bullying, safe spaces, racism, and assimilation.
By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”
But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”
Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?
From page one I fell in love with Slay. Kiera’s difficulties fitting in with her peers at school, forced to be the POC representative, all while feeling the pressure to represent her identity. Feeling always like it’s hard to find a space to just exist – without needing to worry about what our actions impact the whole of our identity, or answer to other’s questions.
Not only that, but Morris presents the readers with many characters who are all struggling to figure out their identity, activism, beliefs, and actions. Whether they wonder if they’re ‘black enough’, how their actions look to both outsiders and those who share our marginalization, or being forced to answer well-meaning questions from those closest to us. Morris doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations about safe spaces, racism, and love.
There are so many brilliant touches in Slay. Ranging from the way Morris shows us glimpses into other player’s lives – to illustrate the power of safe spaces and representation – to how she doesn’t excuse characters. There’s action, activism, and alliances in unlikely places. When our beliefs are twists into something more, something more dangerous. I could rant about Slay all day – I read it one sitting and didn’t eat or move till I finished it! Slay is an important book, a conversation starter, a story about friendship and family, and love and healing.