Kiera Johnson leads a double life. Being one of the few Black girls at her school, she behaves the way she needs to: smart, helpful, and unproblematic. Even Kiera’s family and her boyfriend, Malcolm, expect her to act a certain way. The only time Kiera is truly herself is when she’s Emerald, the queen in a virtual reality game called Slay. Keira made Slay to celebrate Black excellence, and her multitude of players come from across the globe. Of course, no one in Kiera’s real life knows she made the game, or even that she plays it.
But when a Black boy is murdered for game money, for SLAY money, Kiera’s two very separate lives come crashing together. Kiera is filled with guilt for having created a game that took a boy’s life, but she doesn’t have time to grieve. Media outlets, and the internet has pounced on the game, on HER game, calling it racist and exclusionary. Everyone now has an opinion on SLAY, but Kiera doesn’t know what to do. Not saying anything, she might become complacent to the injustice, but speaking up could risk exposing her identity. Worst of all, Kiera now risks losing SLAY to Dred Scott, a racist troll. Emerald would fight for justice, Kiera knows. Emerald wouldn’t bow down to anyone. But will Kiera?
Slay is an absolute masterpiece. I have to admit to having an aversion to video-game related books, but Slay has dispelled that notion. The world-building in this book is amazing, the details exquisite, and I wished I could see a game like SLAY in real life. Kiera is a well-developed character, but some of the side characters are more likable, at least to me. We are also told how SLAY has impacted people’s lives by having a few chapters told in another perspective, a technique I will always love.
Slay by Brittney Morris gets 9/10. The ending was a bit too unrealistic for my taste, and there were some unnecessary scenes. (and i’m sorry, but the cover!! A portrait cover, *sigh*, and far too much pink, which doesn’t match with the story’s vibe.)
Overall, Slay opens up many important discussions about safe spaces for minorities, identity, and what Black excellence looks like at an individual level. That might sound preachy or way too serious, but I promise you, it’s not. The story itself is captivating and there is a mystery aspect to it as well (yayyy!!). Coming from a minority background myself, Slay feels like a hug after a tiring day, a hug that says “I see you and I feel you.” 100% recommend, whoever you are and whatever you like reading.