A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019
"Gripping and timely." --People
"The YA debut we're most excited for this year." --Entertainment Weekly
"A book that knocks you off your feet while dropping the kind of knowledge that'll keep you down for the count. Prepare to BE slain." --Nic Stone, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin and Odd One Out Ready Player One meets The Hate U Give in this dynamite debut novel that follows a fierce teen game developer as she battles a real-life troll intent on ruining the Black Panther-inspired video game she created and the safe community it represents for Black gamers. 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?
- ISBN-13: 9781534445420
- ISBN-10: 1534445420
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publish Date: September 2019
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds
- Page Count: 336
- Reading Level: Ages 13-17
To her family and friends, Kiera Johnson is popular, a good big sister, an honors student, talented at math and likely to attend historically black Spelman College after she graduates from predominantly white Jefferson Academy, where she too often feels singled out as the “voice of Blackness.” But unbeknownst to everyone in her real life, Kiera is also Emerald, the developer of SLAY, one of the hottest new virtual reality role-playing games.
Tired of playing video games in which the only characters of color are villains or dwarves, and weary of encountering racial slurs hurled at her by other players’ avatars, Kiera developed SLAY to create a place where black gamers could play safely online. In the world of her game, black culture is not only respected but is actually the source of players’ power.
But when a black teenager is shot to death over a SLAY-related dispute, Kiera begins to question everything, from the possibility of her own culpability in the player’s murder to whether, as one particularly insidious online troll suggests, the game’s Afrocentric focus and referrals-only membership system discriminate against gamers who are not black.
Debut novelist Brittney Morris admirably melds Kiera’s real-life and online worlds in Slay while illustrating the diversity of experiences and philosophies within the black community. Morris intersperses vignettes that explore the varied experiences of black gamers around the world and what SLAY means to them amid detailed depictions of online gameplay and Kiera’s rapidly escalating real-world crises.
Readers will cheer for Kiera as she slays her own demons, and they’ll come away from the novel desperately wishing SLAY were more than the product of Morris’ imagination.