Throughout June, GeekMom celebrates Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space (including LGBTQ content from previous years) and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.
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Trigger warnings: racism, drug abuse, sexual assault, non-consensual outing, and homophobia
Today’s Pride Month book is one that will appeal to fans of dark teen narratives like Riverdale, Heathers, and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Ace of Spades is a dual perspective novel told by Devon Richardson and Chiamaka Adebayo, the only two Black students at the prestigious Niveus Academy. Devon has always tried to keep his head down, he has focused on his music and his ambition to receive a scholarship to Juilliard. His family lives on “the wrong side of the tracks” where he shares a bed with his brothers, never speaks to his incarcerated father, and tries to support his overworked mother by picking up occasional work dealing drugs. Chiamaka, on the other hand, has spent the last few years as a prefect and has just been awarded the role of head girl now she is a Senior. She dreams of studying medicine at Yale and wants for nothing other than the crown at the upcoming Snowflake Ball. However, she is carrying a terrible secret that only her best friend knows about.
On their first day as Seniors, the entire student body at Niveus starts to receive anonymous text messages from someone calling themself Aces. Devon is publicly outed when pictures of him kissing a boy from the football team are circulated. Chiamaka is falsely accused of shoplifting. Whoever is behind the texts seems to know everything – including Chiamaka’s deepest secret and they appear to be specifically targeting the two Black students. Devon and Chiamaka must team up to discover who is behind the Aces mask before their worlds both come crashing down around them.
Ace of Spades is a powerful novel about the real effects of systemic racism within influential institutions. Within only a few chapters, you begin to feel Devon and Chiamaka’s increasing paranoia as they find themselves unsure about who they can trust. Their friends, teachers, and neighbors all become suspects and while I personally had figured out who was behind the Aces mask long before the big reveal, this did nothing to reduce the genuine anxiety I felt whilst reading as I hoped the two protagonists would have the same realization soon.
I did find the ending of this book to be a little disappointing. What promised to be an explosive showdown at the story’s climax ended up fizzling out less dramatically than I had hoped, and the epilogue wrapped things up a little too neatly for my tastes, but this was a minor concern and even taking this into consideration, I still ended up rating Ace of Spades five stars.
I’ll admit that Ace of Spades was an uncomfortable read for me as a white reader, but I can only imagine that it would be so much worse for Black readers who have most likely faced situations similar to those experienced by Devon and Chiamaka. I urge white readers to pick this up to gain some insight into how uncomfortable and genuinely dangerous life can be when you are one of the only Black faces in a sea of white privilege.
GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.