SLAY

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Here's a book I was really unsure and went for it because it sounded really different. I'm so glad because I liked it a lot, so that's a nice surprise :)

I'm not a gamer as well, but Morris' writing completely captured me. It's a plot driven book, which I love and I really enjoyed discovering this world of game too. Kiera was a great character to follow along with others. 
Overall., I really enjoyed it and if you're interested in the premise, you should get it because it's executed really well. 

Thanks a lot to NetGalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Obvious disclaimer here: I'm a white lady who can in no way comment with any authority on this book which has been written with teenagers of colour in mind. Seek out own voices reviews if you can because they will have captured a much more nuanced view than I could ever hope to. 

Overall, I think this book is probably one of the better video game focussed books to have hit the market since the success of Ready Player One (I hate RP1 but that's by the by). This book is intersectional in a way that other books just haven't been, choosing to centre a black, female experience instead of a cis white male experience - basically I am HERE for this concept it made me incredibly happy. 

This book hooked me with the mystery aspect of the story, working out who it was targetting Kiera kept me reading even when other things frustrated me (I'll get into that below). In addition to that storyline, this book tackles huge concepts and encompasses massive debates all while still (for the most part) feeling true to the experience of a marginalised teenage girl. 

The thrilling parts of this book, the danger, the online battles, the high action aspects are all great, but there are also softer moments that fill out this story into something so much more than just another video game book. Kiera navigates a somewhat abusive relationship, difficulties in friendships, sibling relationships, long-distance friendship. Those 'human' moments are, in my opinion, what makes this book exceptional. 

Now I have to mention the parts that I was not so keen on. To be totally fair, I have, perhaps, a bit more insider knowledge into video game technology than some readers might - my wife is currently an AI programmer in a small game studio and the parts of this book where it tried to delve into the code and the running of such a huge enterprise just didn't feel entirely believable to me. I didn't get a sense of how and when Kiera had learned to code so well, beyond a couple of vague anecdotes. Knowing how much it takes to make a game I was just finding it a little hard to suspend disbelief here and it was frustrating me! 

The only other thing that annoyed me was that this book tends to tell rather than show - which I know is often a personal preference thing, I felt like this book was explaining a lot to me in quite a stilted way, that might not bother you but it cut into my immersion just a tad. 

Overall, I thought this book was great, and a great thing to have published and available for young girls interested in getting into STEM and video game programming. I think teenage me would have loved the plot and this book certainly gives food for thought as to the value of safe spaces in a digital age. 

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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SLAY is a brilliant and insightful book - so much so that it is difficult to believe it is a debut. I'm not very big on gaming, which is at the heart of Keira's story (my knowledge is dated and limited to Mario Kart and a cursory knowledge of Pokemon), but it didn't matter, because Morris' tech-loving novel completely sucked me in.

The story is about Keira, a college student who is secretly the developer of SLAY, an online fantasy role-playing game. SLAY is a place where she and other black gamers all over the world can escape the racism of other online gaming spaces and proudly be themselves. But when someone in the real world dies as a result of a conflict in the game, SLAY is labelled as dangerous and racist. Confronted with this tragedy, Keira is forced to navigate her personal and online relationships to protect the safe space she has created for herself and so many others.

As I mentioned before, I am not a gamer. I know a bit of D&D, and Keira's game had those vibes, but techy stuff goes completely over my head. So trust me when I say that you don't have to understand anything about the game in this novel to find it a thoroughly enjoyable read. What made me care about Keira's game was not the way it was played or the accuracy of how it was developed. I cared about SLAY because it meant something to people. That's more powerful than any magic a game could conjure up.

The characters were distinct and relatable. Keira is quiet, intelligent, and passionate about her game, and throughout the novel, it becomes increasingly clear that she is incredibly resilient despite the huge toll SLAY's controversy has taken on her. Meanwhile, her sister Steph is more bold and outspoken, and unafraid to address people when they're being ignorant. There is a scene where Steph calls out Keira's friends in the most collected and calm way and I was shaking at how powerful it was. But we also see Keira experiencing immense grief for the child who lost his life over her game in that same scene. She is unable to be calm - and why should she be? I loved how Morris addresses the fact that both responses are okay, and that black women don't have to be constantly responsible for educating others.

I also loved the glimpses we got into the lives of the other characters in Keira's life, including Cicada - a biracial French gamer who helped Keira with maintaining the game. There were a couple scattered in there that I'm not sure brought a lot to the story, but I liked how it highlighted how there is no singular black experience.

Although this is in many places a fun read, it is also incredibly intense. The issues the novel deals with are very real - the lack of safe places of POC online, daily microaggressions, white supremacy, abusive relationships, misogyny and elitism under the guise of empowerment. It is difficult to read at times, but very rewarding.

This book affected me deeply and is quite frankly an essential read for its messages but also its thrilling storytelling and wonderful characters. SLAY is all about black girls in STEM elevating each other, and it should be on everyone's shelves.

Warnings: Racism, white supremacy, misogyny, video-game violence, murder (off-page), abusive relationship (non-physical), domestic abuse towards trans child (side character)
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Thank you to Netgalley, Brittney Morris and Hachette Children's Books for arc of Slay in exchange for an honest review. 
Title: Slay 
Author: Brittney Morris 
Format read: Ebook 
Publication Date: 3rd October 
Page Count: 336 Pages 
Publisher: Hachette Children's Books 
Genre: YA 
Star rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 

Synopsis: Kiera is one of the only black kids at her school Jefferson Academy. By day she's an honours student, maths tutor and expected to be the 'voice' on anything relating to black culture, according to her classmates. By night she's the creator of a brilliant online VR card game called Slay. Nobody knows she does this, not her family, not her friends and not even her boyfriend Malcolm whose strong views include that video games contributed to the 'fall of the black man'. But when someone is murdered in real life as a result of the game, suddenly Slay is on everyone's lips, it's branded as racist, exclusionist and worse. Then a troll infiltrates the game threatening to sue Keira for 'anti white discrimination' and now she has to save her game while also preserving her secret identity. 

What I took from Slay is how important a message it holds at its heart. I can't go into much detail without spoilers but I'd say that if you're a fan of The Hate U Give and Black Panther then you will love Slay. I enjoyed the learning element of it and loved Kiera's character. The only bit for me that I found quite boring was the game elements but that's because I'm not really interested in games. I reckon my partner would love that aspect though! And I can see that it does cater to the girl game nerds out there who've needed a book not aimed solely at the Male and usually white gaming community. 
Saying that. Having read other reviews I feel like maybe the game elements were boring to me is because a lot of it is just description and watching rather than seeing any in game action, especially for a VR game. I expected a little more from that. I also felt the exclusivity jarred a bit but maybe that's the message the book was trying to put across. I totally get why safe spaces are needed but it's tough to exclude people who are mixed race, other races etc and create a purely 'black space' but as I say this could very much be one of the messages this book is putting across. 
Overall I liked this book but found it quite a slow starter with boring elements (the in game descriptions) and I had a few issues as mentioned above.
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Slay is just amazing. For a start the gaming and duelling are a nice addition to the core storyline that brings fun and high octane moments. And the main story really is fantastic. I love the way we get to see the black community - the way expectations and cultures mesh is lovely, but we also get to see when they clash in a way that is sadly rare. As this book proves - there should be no one right or wrong answer. And the game itself does sound huge fun. 

I love Keira and Clare, and their care for their world was so clear. I did feel a little uncertain about the exclusivity element, but I definitely understood Keira’s point of view on it. 

Malcolm was a harder character for me to like throughout, especially as the story goes on, but he seems to have a very specific view of how Keira should be and what she should do, which I really didn’t love. 

Honestly this feels like a celebration of a book, despite the tough subjects touched on, and I am going to be passing my physical arc of the book on to an own voices reader. 💙💙
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I was hooked the minute I read about Brittney Morris's debut novel Slay. A story about a teenage developer of an online role playing game, the murder of one of their players and infiltration by a troll? It sounded fascinating and I signed right up. The book couldn't have come at a better time too, for I was struggling to get into anything after reading Kathleen Glasgow's How to Make Friends With the Dark and Slay drew me in and entertained me from the very first page.

Slay is the name of the game that seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson has developed and it boasts over 500,000 users. It is a virtual reality game that is part-card-game, part-combat that celebrates Black excellence, history and culture. The game is admittedly slightly US-centric but focuses on aspects non-American Black culture too.

A central theme in Slay is the experience of blackness and how this differs between individuals. There are many diverse opinions in the book and the book highlights that although society likes to tell Black people how to act and what the correct experience of blackness is, it is up to each individual to define their future and to live in an authentic way. This is an incredibly strong message to be going out to young readers.

The events in Slay centre around the murder of a young player in a dispute over the game's currency. A media storm ensues, with the normal talking heads seeking the game's creator, declaring the game racist and calling for legal action.

It provides the perfect storm in which an online troll can flourish. This troll threatens the entire Slay community and puts everything Kiera has worked so hard for at risk. Can she protect her virtual world?

I thoroughly enjoyed Slay and was quite happy to have been drawn into such an engaging story. I enjoyed the tournaments and matches in the book, the descriptions of the Slay gameplay and the detail behind each of the cards. I also loved the celebration of what it is to be Black and the exploration of how different that experience is for people across the globe.

My primary criticism of the book would be that the game and developer side of the story needs a reality check. Slay is a complex virtual-reality MMORPG, has over half a million users, is run for free on six university servers, has two mods and depends on donations or cheap purchases of backgrounds and images for the various parts of the game. The logistics of running a game of this calibre would be astounding if you imagine that local Facebook groups require far more than two mods or they descend into chaos or that 6,000 employees at my company require more than six servers to do our work. It just doesn't add up and it's unlikely that a teenager managed this without considerable capital input.

In my mind, I got around this by suspending disbelief and taking Kiera at her word that there are virtual-reality kits that make this sort of stuff simple for tech-savvy teens.

I also thought the resolution of the events in the novel were a little too easy and fell too comfortably into the skill set of those who triumphed.

Despite these reservations, I enjoyed Slay a lot and give it an excellent four out of five stars. I cannot wait to see what Brittney Morris delivers next and hope that she doesn't make us wait too long.
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I was unsure when I started this as I’m not a gamer, but oh my God the writing of Brittney Morris is so good it had me hooked and drew me straight into Kiera’s world and the game.  It’s a wonderful book full of representation, a great plot, wonderful characters, amazing writing and my only criticism, it ended and I still wanted more, one of my favourite reads this year. Go out and buy, download or get from the library, it’s amazing.


Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

"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."

I knew from the outset that I would love this book, I absolutely adored The Hate U Give, but I hadn't read Ready Player One but had read Warcross by Marie Lu, which is similarly about gamers, so I knew this would be for me. 

I found the beginning of this book to be really slow going and initially I found it hard to get into, but after the first couple of chapters I was really hooked. I really liked the way the author portrayed their characters, and they were really rounded and developed. 

The blurb already told us exactly what the reveal was going to be, so it didn't come as any surprise, but I liked the way it was set out in the book. 

I could definitely see the connections and relations to The Hate U Give, with the discussions of race and the perception of race. I thought it was beautifully done in Slay and didn't feel forced or fake, and felt very genuine and well researched.

The format of the game was really fun and immersive, and definitely made me want to play the game. It was fun to find out what the different cards were for the game and what they involved.

Overall, a really well written and enjoyable book, which I would definitely like to get in physical format.
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Everybody gather together for this celebration of black culture! I think this is such a great read, for so many reasons. For black people, it’s a massive, open-hearted celebration of their culture; for others, it’s an eye-opening read that certainly taught me a few things I should have known beforehand.
The story itself is about Kiera, a girl who creates a video game, Slay, for black people to meet and duel against each other. But when somebody dies as a result of the game, she and her co-coder, Cicada, start being attacked: for being racist, for being a bad influence, or not having enough safeguards in place. Kiera has to fight against trolls while maintaining her secret identity as Emerald, the administrator of the game.
Slay is defniitely a character-driven book, and the characters are compelling- especially Kiera. She’s warm, open-hearted, brave and not afraid to take her friends to task for misappropriating black culture. Her inner voice- and the text- is so easy to read, and her relationship with her sister, Steph, is the one that stood out for me. They fight, but at the end of the day, they have each others’ backs, and that’s what counts.
Top bit: the game! The game!! The whole idea behind Slay is awesome. Having the gamers battle each other using action cards that are made up of elements of black culture is a great idea, and kept me hooked through all of the duels. Exploring the secret world that Kiera has created- and reading about the stories of the gamers who play it- was a joy, and one of the best things about the book.
Not so hot: As great as it sounds, the idea that a teenager could design and maintain a game like that and still have the social life that she does is not realistic. I would have loved to see Kiera school some IT geeks with her in-depth knowledge coding, or just show some of the knowledge that goes into creating a fictional Fortnite, but it wasn’t there. And that took away a little from the book.
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I loved the theory of this book, but the reality didn't quite live up to expectations. Some of the practicalities just seemed a bit unrealistic (how has Kiera managed to build this game from scratch when she says she has no coding experience?!). But the political message is really great and it touches on a lot of important issues.
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DNF
I really wanted to love this but had to DNF.
First of all, it is super unrealistic. I'm also not enjoying the writing and some of the things said are surprising me and not it a good way.
Was hoping it would be a Ready Player One for girls but not for me.
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I tried giving this a decent go but I had to DNF at 25%. 
I couldn't warm to any of the characters, the writing felt simplistic and didn't make me feel inspired to keep reading and I couldn't make sense of how a girl (still in school), had managed to develop a VR game with virtually no funds, on her own, and keep it a secret from her friends and family. It made no sense and the descriptions of the game play were confusing and I completely lost interest because of this. 

I was looking forward to reading this because I like video games, but it was just one big eye roll for me.
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I wasn't 100% sure how much I was going to enjoy this book, not because it didn't interest me but because I am not a gamer and I know very little about video games.

Morris writes so well that at no point did I feel like my lack of gaming knowledge counted against me. I always knew what was going on and I never felt that my lack of interest in video gaming made SLAY an any less enjoyable read.

I've said before that 5-star reviews are the hardest to write and that's equally true here.

If you've spent any amount of time on my blog, you'll probably know that contemporary (especially contemporary YA) is one of my least read genres. The fact that I've rated this one five-star should say a lot.

The world-building within world-building in this novel is incredible. Not only are Kiera and her family, her school life and her relationships vividly described and completely believable, Morris has also created an incredible world within SLAY (the game) itself.

Days later, I'm still have convinced that I could pick up a controller and load-up SLAY myself, or that I could put it into Google and come up with results. In this respect, it's quite similar to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: even though the media was created entirely for the novel, it feels 100% like something that already exists. I loved the gameplay with the card system and, even is a non-gamer, I completely understood the rules involved in the duels and how the things going on within the game related to the real world characters we were following.

Kiera has to be one of the best characters that I've read recently. She's incredibly well-written and multifaceted. Morris manages to fit an awful lot of relationship dynamics within the space of this novel: we have Kiera 's relationship with her sister, her best friend, her best friend's brother, her boyfriend, her parents and her co-moderator. There are also relationships between all of the supporting characters which feel fully fleshed out too.

SLAY deals with some very serious issues including cyberbullying, safe spaces, racism, cultural appropriation and feelings of alienation. The fact that Morris has managed to discuss all of these while fitting in the level of world-building and character development (without ever making the novel feel like it's about anything other than the story itself) is incredibly impressive.

SLAY is a fabulous book and I'd recommended it to gamers and non-gamers alike.
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really, this is more like a 4.5 star read. it was absolutely incredible and has everything i love. gamer girls, coding, discussions, intersectional feminism, f/f friendship, a trans woman (among plenty of diversity), amazing writing style. this book was pretty much flawless? i think the only bad thing i can say about this is that the ending felt a bit rushed, especially with all the build up. but otherwise, perfect. 

review to come on my blog
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Unfortunately I can only give a 1 star rating for this book as I DNF’d it. This was mainly due to the fact I am not the target audience for it. A lot of the references passed me by and that is probably as I haven’t had the experiences of the audience this would be targeted at. I got around 20% of the way in and although the main character was interesting to read about, when it got to the players playing their cards in Slay, some meanings flew over my head. I think young black teens will love it, as as this is completely aimed at them.
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Thank you NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read something way out of my comfort zone.
Kiera is an honours student and seems pretty certain where things are going. But she has a secret that she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing. She has designed and co-created a digital world where members can form a community...a game called SLAY.
In this world, black game players don’t have to worry about online trolling and racist abuse. The moves they can use are part of black culture, and Kiera sees this as her safe space. Somewhere she can explore who she is, without being worried she is being judged. 
Though the game seems to have come from a well-intentioned place, events somewhat take over and it’s clear Kiera has been a little naive. A young boy who plays her game is killed in real life and at the heart of his killing is an in-game dispute. Kiera feels responsible, and so many voices start to point the finger.
An interesting way to explore race and attitudes to race. I didn’t really get all the gaming talk, but the issues it examined were definitely compelling. 
There’s no easy answers to some of the questions posed in the book, but it serves as another attempt to initiate discussion.
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You don't have to be a gamer to understand this book. This book is one of those where  jargon does not matter. The subjects being discussed do and with this story it touches on so many issue prevalent black teens today and for gamers as a community.

A well thought out and structured novel that never loses it's pace, with relate able  and likable characters this book is a great read,
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Firstly, SLAY is phenomenal! I’m not a gamer (unless a Crash Bandicoot, Advance Wars and Zoombinis phase counts?!) but I loved Brittney Morris’ presentation of Black gamers, the wide range of Black people from all areas of society who game, and the reality of online gaming for Black people in terms of the racist abuse they frequently encounter. Having a young Black woman as the developer of an online world as rich as Slay is EVERYTHING! This is definitely one for Black Girl Gamers.

SLAY shows the relationships that Black women and girls navigate - with Black men, our families, our white friends - safe spaces, tokenism, forced representativeness, the coded language used to describe black “issues”. In SLAY, Brittney also begins to explore how rich and vast the African diaspora truly is (chapter 16 - ughhh) and the Slay cards are a genius way of doing this; I love the “twist out” card and I’m looking forward to seeing a “scotch bonnet” card (definitely an attack card) and a “trouble mek di monkey nyam pepper” card (absolutely a hex)!

SLAY the novel is the same as Slay the game: a celebration of Black culture in all its myriad forms. In her novel, Brittney shows that diversity within blackness is more than just shade range.
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I not sure it’s completely appropriate for me to give a review of this book. However, I enjoyed the writing, plot and characters.
I was teaching in an all girls school with a population of students who would love this book that would help them feel represented.
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Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC of this novel!

Guys. I love SLAY. The writing is impeccable and the storyline is thought provoking. I really enjoyed reading about not only a girl in STEM but a POC in STEM. The conversation about race mixed with VR gaming is original and sure to resonate with loads of people.

I enjoyed the cast of characters presented - the protagonist feels real and relatable. We've got a diverse cast of characters in terms of personality and race and I think this complements and acts as a foil to the main character in such an elegant manner. 

Even though this is a contemporary, there is a bit of a thriller aspect to it - will SLAY get shut down? And who is Dred, this person who wants to sue? 

The book asks very important questions and as a reader, you learn a lot outside your own culture. The book teaches other POCs and non-POCs about black history and culture in a way that doesn't sound condescending or like a lecture - teaching history through playing cards was an amazing tool.

Simply: this book is great. If you don't read it, you're missing out.
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