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Book Review: "Ace of Spades" Delivers A Nail-Biting Message

By Brooklyn Toney--Eagle Staff Writer

The cover art used for "Ace of Spades" by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. (Photo by Brooklyn Toney)

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is a young adult thriller that was published on June 1, 2021. The author began writing the book at eighteen, while in her freshman year of college. 

The story is told through the perspective of two students: Chiamaka Adebayo and Devon Richards. 

Chiamaka is described as being a stereotypical mean girl who wants to increase her social status in order to get her ticket to Yale. Chiamaka is the only child of a Nigerian mother and Italian father. Chiamaka has spen t the last three years at Niveus Private Academy carving the perfect reputation. Throughout the story, she mentions wanting to get into Yale to become a doctor. She is from a rich background, but has much trauma to work through. She and her mother have been disowned from her father’s family due to racism. Chiamaka also begins to question her sexuality as she becomes closer to her classmate, Belle.

In contrast to Chiamaka, Devon Richards earned his way into Niveus Private Academy through a scholarship. Throughout the story Devon could be described as being musically talented and he hopes to get into the prestigious Julliard. Devon is also carrying the struggle of being a young gay Black teen, while living in a poor community. He lives with his two younger brothers while his mother struggles to make ends meet. In the book, there’s also talk of his father being incarcerated, but the author doesn’t go in-depth with how his father ended up in that position.

Chiamaka and Devon are the only two black students at their pretentious private school. The story opens at the beginning of the school year with the two main characters being named as school prefects. They both have their suspicions about each other, however, and aren't sure who's really on what side.

Throughout the story, the two are faced with acts of racial discrimination and harrassment that are somewhat terrifying. A cyberbully by the name of “Aces” posts a photo of Devon kissing another boy in their grade, outing both of them. In addition to the outing, Aces posts an incriminating photo of Chiamaka allegedly stealing from a candy store. Devon and Chiamaka now join forces to solve the mystery of who “Aces” really is.

Towards the end of the story, it is revealed that “Aces” is not a single person, but the entire student body. It is a tradition for the school to admit two Black students every decade. Past legacy students, and their children, go to “Camp Aces” every summer to learn about the past of Niveus Private Academy and how to harrass legacy students into dropping out. Niveus Private Academy, and many other private academies in the country, use this kind of "social eugenics": students' only hope of social success is participating in the harassment of "non-traditional" students. It's their ticket to the Ivy League.

The last monologue makes an effort to reintroduce a different relationship between Chiamaka and her former headmaster. (Photo by Brooklyn Toney)

The epilogue took place ten years later with Chiamaka and Devon being co-founders of an association called the Underground Society. The Underground Society helps to prevent institutions like Niveus from happening again. Devon becomes a college professor who teaches music and Chiamaka achieves her dream of going to Yale to become a doctor. 

Upon review, I think this story was a hard read. I had to put this book down twice over the course of a couple months because there were some heavy topics. Ace of Spades was not the “Gossip Girl meets Get Out” book as advertised. This definitely did not have elements of dark academia either, because the book rarely focused on academics. There were many empty gaps in the story and I would’ve liked to see more emphasis on the characters. In the epilogue, I also would’ve liked to have seen a scene where the two go to therapy for all the trauma they’ve endured while attending the school.

While the author could’ve emphasized more, there are some good elements of the novel. The character “Aces” had me at the edge of my seat after each chapter. There was a great deal of suspense building up to the grand reveal and I felt like the story was really thrilling.

For it to be the author’s debut novel, I thought it set the bar high for what’s next to come.

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