Brittney Morris found a way to tackle tough topics in a fun environment through Slay.
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?
Kiera Johnson lives two lives. By day Kiera is a minority high school student surrounded by people who could never understand her. At night she becomes Emerald who is a queen inside the gaming world of SLAY. With her VR headset on Kiera can let go of her worries and finally be her unfiltered self.
My favorite part of Slay was the actual game, SLAY. It’s a virtual reality not only made of but for Black gamers that celebrates Black culture in the best ways possible. Gamers duel with cards and each one is based on an important factor of being Black. There’s a Black Jesus card, hussle card, and even a mom’s mac and cheese card! While reading through each description, SLAY felt fresh and unique especially after I’ve read many gaming books before.
I really enjoyed learning more about this game Kiera created. I’ll admit that there are a few questionable points within the plot. At times it was hard to believe that one seventeen-year-old girl created something as massive as SLAY with only one other moderator. Considering Kiera has a social life including a boyfriend and is a top student it makes you curious to how she manages to do it all? But despite this, I still found Slay to be an enjoyable read.
It helped that Kiera is an easy character to root for. Reading through her POV was an eye-opening experience and readers are sure to connect with her want for a safe haven. With each character, especially the SLAY gamers, there is a sense of belonging within them. It was touching to read how thousands of people found a piece of themselves in this community. This made Slay a special book.
When a gamer is suddenly killed the night before a big duel, SLAY becomes a hot topic in the media. The world begins to criticize the game over many factors especially whether it is in fact racist or not. Kiera is put in an impossible situation and has to fight for this world she loves. There’s a lot of action and twists (many I could never predict) up until the book comes to a satisfying close.
Overall, Slay is a must-read for gaming fans. This is a strong debut for Brittney Morris and I’m looking forward to her future work! Her writing is captivating and heartfelt. Slay is an important read for all teenagers and I hope everyone takes a chance on reading this book even with its faults. It will be released on September 24 so make sure to grab your copy then!