Name: Slay by Brittney Morris
Page count: 318
Published: September 24th 2019 – Simon Schuster
Popsugar prompt #2: An Afrofuturist book
“I know its going to be hard for both of you, but just imagine that literally nothing was made for you… Every movie in your life is majority Black, all the characters in your favorite books have been cast darker in the movie adaptation for no reason, and every mistake you make is because of your skin color and because of “your background” and because of the music you listen to. You are the only white kids at a school of five hundred Blacks, and every Black person at that school asks you to weigh in on what it’s like to be white, or what white people think about this or that. It’s not fun.”
“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 is a very likeable character and I loved watching her develop Slay and duel other gamers. Her intentions were pure and I felt her passion through the pages. My favourite things about her are how self-assured, determined and introspective she is. The minor characters were super realistic and helped to start conversations about identity, cultural appropriation, and healthy relationships. Morris effectively got me to be angry on Kiera’s behalf when she was discriminated against or mistreated by her boyfriend which is part of what made this story so compelling.
I was thrown off when the second chapter switched POVs because the synopsis made it seem like a single POV story. I then assumed that it would switch back and forth between Kiera and the new POV, Cicada, the co-developer of the game Slay. Instead, it goes back to Kiera but there are a few other chapters told by Slay players from around the world. I usually enjoy stories with multiple POVs but the way Morris interspersed these stand alone chapters confused me at first because they seemed random. In the end, these chapters tie together and they show the powerful impact that Slay has on Black gamers. It shows how the Slay world is a place where they can be themselves, with an emphasis on the fact that Black people are not a monolith. They are united by their Blackness, yet each player is unique and their experiences are diverse.
Slay asks real questions, such as, is a video game designed only for Black people racist, can white people wear dreads, and is it possible for Black people to date outside of their race and still be Pro-Black? The way that Kiera discusses these topics, her experiences with racism and why she created Slay is really well done. Plus, the game is extremely detailed and I think that’s something readers can appreciate regardless of whether or not they are gamers themselves. Slay shows the importance of friendship and family and what it means to truly love someone. Kiera learns what her priorities are and who she can count on for support and I think that is one of the best parts of the story. Overall, the plot moves at a good pace, throws in a couple good twists and has a satisfying ending!