Cover Image: SLAY

SLAY

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Member Reviews

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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I had to DNF this book. It was just so bad. I read Warcross by Marie Lu a little while ago and when SLAY came by on Netgalley I knew I had to read it. It was definitely not as good as Warcross. Warcross got 3 stars from me, SLAY gets only one. 

Writing style: I couldn't get into the style the author uses to write in. A children's book has more complicated sentences than this. 

Characters: It's supposed to be a book about a black girl but you could have told me it was about a dog and I'd still believe you. The characters are flat, they don't have any characteristics that jump from the page and the only thing that indicates the MC is black is the dialogue she has with her boyfriend and sister.

World-building: the game the MC has made is just not plausible. There's so much that goes into a VR game that you can't make unless you have millions of dollars at your disposal and a high school girl doesn't have that kind of funds. There's only one other mod, a Facebook group with only a couple of people in it has more than 2 mods, so it's not possible that a game that is played by thousands has only one mod.

Potential: This is the author's debut novel and I'm sure she'll take the (I'm) possibility of what she's writing into more consideration when writing her new book. This story sounded amazing, but it really didn't live up to anything.

I really wanted to give this book a chance. When I first started it, I already despised the writing style, it just really isn't for me. So I put the book down and gave it some time before I opened it again. The second time around I still didn't like it. At the third try I just got so annoyed with the impossibility of this book and I had to DNF it. This book is not for me, but I'm sure others will like it just fine.
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This book had a great premise and I love the representation in this book. 

However, there seemed to be an overuse of hyphens, I'm not sure if this was intentional or just a big error with the review copy. The representation of relationships and some characters felt like it could have been improved.
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A teen game developer finds herself facing an online troll after her Black Panther-inspired game reaches mainstream media and is labelled as exclusionary when a young Black boy is murdered over an online dispute. No one knows that Kiera Johnson, an honours student, runs the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. So when her game’s existence is thrown out into the open, she must save her game while also protecting the safe community she has created for Black gamers. 

SLAY comes to life when Kiera Johnson’s experiences of being a Black gamer means she is ostracised and faces continuously racist abuse. SLAY becomes her refuge where she can put aside her fears about college and whether her future with her boyfriend is the one and, simply put, slays in her self-made game environment. I loved the gameplay detail a lot. For some, it can feel overwhelming, but I loved the detail Morris put into bringing SLAY to life! The gaming culture is one of the book’s strongest point. 

When word of SLAY leaks to the media, Kiera is devastated to see what was a safe space for so many people suddenly branded and portrayed in a negative light, this book is a discussion of the importance of space spaces, and they have the right to exist without being labelled racist. 

In my opinion, the book struggles to make me feel like Kiera developed this game. I thought we’d get a better explanation to how she manages to run SLAY, a VR MMORPG, but we get so little that it made the reading experience disappointing. SLAY is Kiera’s baby, but to maintain a game like SLAY for years with no one in your family realising and only having two people moderating a game with 500k users doesn’t make sense. I would’ve loved to have seen Kiera actively working on SLAY rather than pushing it to the side and with little to show of her skill in game development. Also, the ending was rather disappointing as well, and a lot is glossed over, and not developed. So it’s a shame the side characters weren’t as impressive as they had the potential to be better. Kiera deserves better friends after everything she’s been through. 

Overall, despite my own shortcomings with SLAY, Morris’s debut is a sweet love letter to Black gamer girls. SLAY is born out of Kiera’s wish to promote Black culture from across the diverse diaspora. Collectable battle cards are grounded in Black culture, each with a deep meaning and can kick ass on the digital playing field. SLAY was a good read, and I’ll happily check out anything else Morris will release in the future.
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This book is amazing! Mash up Angie Thomas with Alice Oseman and you have Slay. Thought provoking in a completely different way, this book really makes you consider racial identity and racism in an upfront and challenging manner. The gaming element is part of that-not just a fantastic construct-as a white non-gamer it had never occurred to me that the virtual fantasy world could be just as divisive as the real one. An important book that asks important, eye opening questions but that is entertaining, gripping and emotive to boot. I ripped through it in one sitting and can't wait for more from Brittney Morris!
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I really enjoyed this book, it was extremely thought provoking and insightful. I got to see a world I have never experienced and in doing so I found myself becoming educated. I think this book speaks to a lot of people and I am so glad it’s been written. We all need more books like this one and I am so glad that I got to read it.
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Slay is told by Kiera Johnson a female, teen coder who has created her own game to provide a space where she can be truly herself. To enable the game to be a safe space for the black community that it is designed for you need a passcode to play. However the game becomes headline news after a tragic event leads to a young boy being murdered leading to difficulties in both Kiera’s personal and online life. 

I really liked this book. I particularly liked that the book has a strong female lead who is coding video games. More of this please! The story line kept me engaged and I was invested in finding out how it all played out. I enjoyed the journey that Kiera took, showcasing that everyone has different views and opinions and it is important to learn who to trust. 

I did find the writing a little clunky at the beginning (a little too much tell rather than show) however this did settle down after the first chapter or so. My other issue was the boyfriend character, I was not sure if I completely believed the way he acted. 

However, with those minor quibbles I was still completely immersed and will be interested to see what Brittney Morris writes next.
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