ACE OF SPADES by FARIDAH ABIKE-IYIMIDE
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
First off, I wanted to say that I didn’t realize I skipped a week until I got home on Friday and went oh, crap, my review! So, without further ado, here it is:
Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide first popped up on my radar when I saw what a massive advance she’d gotten when the book was sold to a publisher. According to Publisher’s Marketplace, Iyimide got “a major deal, for seven figures, in a pre-empt, for a two book deal.” Now, if you don’t speak publishing like I do, you may be wondering what some of these words mean. A major deal means the author got over six figures (seven, in this case), for their book. Iyimide is a debut author, so this kind of money is almost unheard of for an unproven writer. A pre-empt is when a publisher preemptively puts money on the table for a book. When a publisher pre-empts a book, it means they’re willing to pay a hefty sum to grab that book before another publisher can.
Long story short: Faridah Abike-Iyimide got a ton of money for this book.
Was it worth it? I certainly think so. And I’m picky, that much I will admit. However, after being unable to put down Ace of Spades for three days straight, I can confirm that this book is good. It’s very, very good. Pitched as Get Out meets Gossip Girl, Ace of Spades is a dual-POV story following two Black students at an elite private high school called Niveus Academy. Chiamaka Adebayo and Devon Richards are the only two Black kids at Niveus and they both have had very different lives during their time at the school. Chiamaka, who is very wealthy, is a straight-A student, Head Prefect, and well on her way to Yale. Devon, on the other hand, lives in a poor neighborhood and does his best not to stand out. Devon and Chiamaka barely know one another until a mysterious and anonymous figure named Aces starts exposing their deepest secrets to the entire school. Together, Chiamaka and Devon team up to find out who Aces is before they ruin their lives and run them out of the school.
Ace of Spades is a truly thrilling book. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I love an elite school setting and I especially loved how Iyimide was able to weave important topics like racism, classism, and homophobia into it. I loved how unashamed Chiamaka was. She was a bit of a mean girl and first and did not care how people perceived her, as long as she came out on top. Devon is much less assertive and much quieter, but his chapters gave us real insight on what it’s like to be the odd one out in a school full of rich kids. I thought the side characters, like Chiamaka’s friend Jamie and her eventual love interest, Belle, were a bit underdeveloped, but I think that’s on purpose. Ace of Spades is not a book about white people. Ace of Spades is not for white audiences. It is about Blackness and how that affects everything from how your classmates see you to what colleges you’ll get into.
As thrilling as Ace of Spades is, it’s not always easy to read, nor should it be. This book confronts a lot of hard truths that many non-Black readers may be uncomfortable with at first. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT, but Aces turns out to be a cabal of white supremacists who specifically target Black students, dating all the way back to the 1960s. There’s one particular incident in the book that make me physically sick to my stomach while reading it. I won’t spoil it here, but if you’re a white person reading this book (and you should), it can and will make you deeply uncomfortable. Sit with that discomfort awhile. Examine it. Ask yourself why you feel the way you do, and if your gut reaction is would anyone really be this racist? Then ask yourself why you feel that way. Is it because you can’t imagine it? I can, and Iyimide certainly can.
The mystery element of the plot gets wrapped up fairly quickly and it becomes obvious who Aces in about halfway through the book, which is fine. Ace of Spades is less a mystery than it is a thriller, and thrilling it is. Read all the way to the last page. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Ace of Spades can be a difficult read for a lot of reasons, and the author lists specific content warnings here, on her website: https://www.faridahabikeiyimide.com/ace-of-spades-content-warnings
If you’d like to give Ace of Spades a shot, you can check it out at the Oreana library today!