SLAY by BRITTNEY MORRIS
REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Slay by Brittney Morris is one of the year’s most anticipated YA releases. As an #OwnVoices story about a Black game developer, there’s an authenticity to this story that cannot be denied. We follow the journey of seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson as she navigates high school as one of the only Black kids in her class, all the while balancing the demands of the MMORPG she created, SLAY. However, when the news breaks that a crime has been committed in connection to Kiera’s game, she finds herself trapped in the middle of a controversy that forces her to confront the very fabric of who she is and who she wants to be.
From the very first page of Slay, I was hooked. It launches you right into the action of the game and doesn’t waste time bogging itself down with exposition. Kiera’s narrative voice is strong and clear, and being in her head for most of the book was far from a dissatisfying experience. I also enjoyed Cicada, Kiera’s partner in the creation of SLAY. Cicada–not her real name, but a name she uses in the game–shows up in the narrative from time to time as well, along with a whole cast of other characters I wasn’t expecting to get points of view from.
If there’s one quibble I have with Slay, it’s that the points of view shift too frequently to really get a handle on every individual included in the narrative. When I started reading, I assumed the book would be told entirely from Kiera’s perspective. It’s not. So many random people get a chapter or two, but I didn’t feel the POV switches really added to the story. We could have done without them and would have understood what was going on just as well.
My favorite part about Slay, by far, are the many nuanced discussions the book has about race. SLAY (the game) only admits Black gamers into its servers and those who want to join must be sent a code to access the game. This sparks a debate about whether or not the game is exclusionary, what it means to have a “safe space” within a community. and how Black people are always accused of being “disruptive” when they attempt to make communities for themselves. These are all incredibly important conversations to have and I’m glad they were included in Slay’s narrative.
Overall, Slay is a richly nuance YA contemporary with a slighty sci-fi twist. Kiera is a wonderful main character and the book isn’t afraid to tackle important topics.