Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 6 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

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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This was something. I didn't really know what I was getting in to when I requested this, I was pulled in by the cover. But I was sucked in and sucked in hard. The POC, the nerd, it was great. It wasn't made for mea white non gamer, but even still I loved every little thing about this.
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IN SUMMARY: In this mixed bag of novel, where the video game logistics don't make sense and the characters are boring, SLAY falls far short of slaying.


My biggest problem with SLAY is that the video game itself just doesn't seem plausible.

The protagonist, Kiera, is a hard-working student with high grades and a tutor who created and now maintains SLAY without her parents or anyone else knowing. I had so many questions that made it impossible to suspend my disbelief. Like how Kiera could afford to run and maintain SLAY for three years without her parent's knowledge. She tutors her friend in maths occasionally, but that would be nowhere near enough to maintain servers, run maintenance, buy assets, textures, designs, etc. How does she buy her VR gear? How can she afford a high-end PC? Or the multiple servers down in Paris that run the game? As far as we're made aware the game is free to play, and Kiera herself has no trust fund, and though her parents are comfortable we don't see them bequeathing her an allowance.

Probably more importantly, how does she have the time or the energy? Kiera developed and moderates the game, and it's implied that she creates everything herself (aside from one mod, Cicada, but I'll get to that). She builds the worlds and biomes, she programmes the code, she fixes the bugs and creates the cards used to duel. The duels are grandiose battles in stadiums - did she make all the animations, too? What about the sound effects? Modelling? Even if I accept the fact that she's a mastermind at everything game creation, that doesn't account for the fact that she's still a schoolgirl who has homework and studying and a social life. It's not possible that she manages all these things and gets to bed by nine-thirty.

Bearing in mind this is also virtual reality, so you have to add the development of synchronising motion control and tactile feedback and a stereoscopic display sensors.

Maybe she has people to help out? Well, no, because there's only one other mod, Cicada. How do you have a game played by hundreds of thousands of players only moderated by two people? My Discord server has thirty users and we have more mods than that! How do you manage chat functions and communication, card trades, marketplace, character customisation, complaints/ feedback? Forums? There's absolutely no weight behind the logistics of SLAY that makes it believable as an actual video game.

There's even a part where, as a huge duel is about to take place, all five hundred thousand of the accounts of SLAY suddenly become active as people tune in to watch. All for a game that is supposedly 'not mainstream'. Yeah, right. Club Penguin had over two hundred million accounts, and do you think all of those people suddenly decided to hop back online just as the site was being shut down?

This read like a very idealistic, almost romanticised portrayal of being a game developer. You can't click your hands and boom, "here's my game and thousands of players!". We never see Kiera put work into making/ improving SLAY that would at least assuage the doubts that she could be the game's developer, and we never see her genius level intellect come into play that could justify her wizard-level game creation skills.

Even outside the game there are moments that are hard to swallow. Most things happen just because, like Kiera grabbing a last-minute appointment with a lawyer, or all the high-level players being important in Kiera's life, or a fancy CEO offering them server space, or the right people showing up at the right time. The cast of characters weren't particularly memorable or interesting; I'd say Steph was the best and most level-headed, but I doubt I'll care to remember anyone else in this book. Even Kiera was rather watery in terms of personality.

The ending was unsatisfying. The boy has died and things happen and... that's it. Kiera's life changed monumentally, but it's entirely glossed over. I cannot even fathom that, minor spoiler, Kiera still wanted to give someone a chance of redemption after they posed as a white supremacist online and then doxxed her identity to the entire goddamn Internet. Like... are you serious? Does this even need to be said how ridiculous it sounds to think "they're not so bad" after they did that????

(This is when Steph, who had to talk Kiera out of it, got an upgrade to Character of the Novel...)

Sometimes I also thought the cultural politics of the novel were heavy-handed; it seemed to hand-hold you through on-the-nose explanations of black culture. Cicada is also roped into becoming a device to propel the discussion: one instance has her apologising that because she's half-black, she wasn't "black enough" to play SLAY, and Kiera kindly explains that that wasn't the case at all. I'm not black but as a mixed person, having a non-mixed person explaining that to a mixed person doesn't seem right at all...

I know I've stripped this novel apart, but it was sort of like popcorn; I couldn't stop reading. Ignoring the execution of SLAY, the game itself is brilliant. I loved that the cards echoed elements from black culture. I just wish more was done with it, you know? The characters needed fleshing out, and I would've liked to have seen Kiera show don't tell that she's the game's developer by seeing her actually developing the game.

WILL I READ MORE BY THIS AUTHOR? Yes. This is a debut, so far from perfect, but Morris has potential and I'll be glad to see what she comes up with next.
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Some books take a few chapters before you’re really on board with them, and some only take a few pages. I was very few pages into SLAY before I realised I was almost certainly going to love every minute of it and be sad when it was over (spoiler: I did and I was).

The book opens with Kiera desperate to race home in time to attend a battle between two esteemed characters in the game she has created, SLAY. By the time she’s succeeded in this goal we’ve already met her (awesome) sister Steph, her best friend Harper (who’s white and wants to know if it’s ok for her to wear dreadlocks), and her boyfriend Malcolm (the one person she feels she can be herself with). Oh, and of course Cicada, her second-in-command in the game and all round beautiful and delightful person.

Honestly, I loved all the characters in SLAY. Some authors just have that talent for drawing characters who are interesting, complex and engaging. The kind of people you always want to know more about. This is a talent Brittney Morris has in spades. I loved Kiera, of course, who wouldn’t? She’s fun and clever and imaginative and thoughtful. I particularly enjoyed her in the SLAY game. She has so much self-confidence; knows exactly what she’s doing and knows her own value in that world. I loved it!

The rest of the characters are wonderful too, even the ones we see very little of, like Dr John Abbott and his adorable nephews, or Annette Coleman, the lawyer. The ones who are closer to Kiera are even better, of course. Steph is magnificent from beginning to end; Cicada/Claire may be the sweetest person in the entire world, and Malcolm may be painful to read about but he is certainly a compelling character.

Aside from the characters, the story itself is seriously gripping. Kiera has created an amazing safe space for black people all around the world, but a boy is murdered because of a dispute over in-game currency, and all her hard work is jeopardised when the media pick it up and start accusing the game of being racist against white people (that’s not a thing, btw) and a breeding ground for thugs and criminals. Plus a white supremacist has managed to get in and is threatening a lawsuit. The way that 17-year-old Kiera processed and dealt with all this had me glued to my kindle. And the ending was perfection and I loved it!

I also have to mention all the lovely representation in the book. We have queer people, including Jaylen, who’s trans, and they/them pronouns used for a couple of different characters. I also loved the bit where Kiera notices that someone is using a Pride mask she created for Pride month and is happy that it meant something to someone. There’s even a mention of being able to make the game more accessible for disabled people towards the end; hurrah! I’m not, of course, going to comment on the black representation in the book – that’s not something for a white woman to do! But I do have to mention how lovely and positive this book was about online communities. For so many people the internet is a lifesaver; it’s where they can find people like them, and it was so nice to see that represented as well.

Basically, I loved SLAY. The characters, the plot, the story, the representation, the writing… everything came together to create an absolutely delightful reading experience. Also the cover is beautiful. Recommended if you enjoy books about gaming, grappling with ideas, or awesome characters.
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This was a gripping and powerful book, and such an important ownvoices read. It was so refreshing to read from Kiera's point of view as a black girl who games and codes. She is a kickass character and the book raised and addressed so many big and important issues. This felt to me like THUG x Warcross and I am here for that combo!
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