Hey, everyone! I’m back with a new book review, and this time it’s for Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s YA contemporary thriller, Ace of Spades!
About the Book
Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah ç-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.
When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.
Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.
As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?
With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. (via Goodreads)
I’ll start off this review by saying that I thought I was going to love this book. The pitch Gossip Girl meets Get Out immediately drew me in (we’ve already established here on City of Deja how much I love GG), so I was really excited to read Ace of Spades. Unfortunately, I came out of this book extremely underwhelmed and disappointed.
This book wasn’t bad per se….but it wasn’t good either. Ace of Spades lacked all of the depth and complexity that I thought it’d have. The book relies a little too heavily on the Gossip Girl meets Get Out pitch, to the point where the story itself lacks its own nuance and depth. When the reveals started rolling in during the final stretch of the book, I wasn’t surprised at all; it seemed to be following the same exact beats we saw in the film, Get Out. In terms of Gossip Girl, I didn’t get that at all from his book beyond the presence of an anonymous texter. Ace of Spades was more like Scream Queens with just how cringeworthy and forced it felt. Maybe comparing this debut to Gossip Girl and Get Out wasn’t the best marketing tool since the book pales in comparison.
The characters also felt like caricatures for the majority of the book. The page time split between both Chiamaka and Devon’s home lives felt extremely imbalanced with the Aces plot line happening at their school. This book is extremely heavy on the romance, to the point where it feels a little out of place. At times, it felt as if I was reading two different stories. The author really drew me in with Devon’s home life, and the themes of sexuality that were explored through his character, but then she’d lose me when we’d get back to the “mystery” aspect of the book. The contemporary moments had layers I was interested in, while the “thriller” part of the book didn’t have that same spark.
I also expected to read about a reluctant friendship forming between Chiamaka and Devon, but the two are actually at odds with each other for about 80% of the book–despite being the only people they both can fully trust. Maybe I was just misled by the cover, but it was disappointing that we didn’t get to see a stronger bond form between the two. Instead, we’re subjected to Chiamaka’s endless Blair Waldorf-esque jabs about Devon’s clothes and his neighborhood that just became tiring to read about.
The writing is also really choppy and stilted throughout. It honestly felt like the author was holding back while writing this book. This was one of those cases where it felt like the author was trying really hard to write for a young audience, and it showed. So it read more like lower YA. I laughed a lot while reading this book, but mostly because some lines were just that cringey to read.
The discussions of racism in this book were also just….flat. The book’s concept made me think we’d get a lot of great theme exploration of discrimination of Black students in predominantly white spaces, and the longevity of systems of oppression, but that just didn’t happen. The commentary on the issues of racism were extremely surface level and lackluster. I was yearning for way more.
Overall, Ace of Spades was huge miss for me. The characters, setting, and overall story were all flat and predictable. The cover is amazing, but unfortunately for me, that was the best thing about this book.
Star Scale: ⭐️⭐️.5 (2.5 stars)
Grade Scale: D+
6 thoughts on “Book Review: Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé”
I agree completely with everything you said! The home life vs. Aces plot was very unbalanced – it was more about their home lives than anything else….which confused me. It felt like this book was trying to be too many different genres (thriller and boarding school theme and romance and contemporary) that it was all just mushed together and didn’t work out…. I hate when you want to like a book but don’t. So sad. But very good review, you hit all the key points of why I disliked this one too!
Thanks for reading! I definitely loved the concept of this book, but the execution fell completely flat.
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I also rated the book 2 stars for all the reasons you mentioned. The writing wasn’t the best, the setting wasn’t described in enough detail, and the ending was just downright ridiculous and silly. I agree that the thriller elements of the novel were lacking tremendously and I was so disappointed at the predictable reveals and the frankly boring way the protagonists decided to resolve the conflict. It’s really surprising to me that so many people are rating this 5 stars when, as you said, its exploration of racism is academia isn’t much of an exploration at all and it attempts to tie things into a neat little bow that just isn’t realistic. But I am glad to have found someone else who had similar issues with the book! Great review!
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Thanks for reading! I was hopeful that this review would reach those who felt the same since it does have a plethora of highly rated reviews. I’m also glad to know I’m not alone!
Finally someone else Black who was not impressed by this story. I felt like it was written to teach white readers to see Black humanity. And frankly I’m tired of those types of YA readers. The plot was boring and over the top in the worst way for me. The characters lacked no depth and there was no Black positivity. I never felt like these were real people. And then she tried to make the setting very vague but it didn’t feel like America at all.
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I also never thought that these characters felt like real people, and that probably attest to your point of the book’s intended audience. This never felt like a book that I was supposed to relate to (or even enjoy…) as a Black reader. And it’s true, that vague setting was just distracting. I was left so disappointed by this book, so I’m glad that I’m not alone!