Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades, the debut novel by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, was one of my most anticipated books of June 2021, and I picked it up as soon as it came out. This YA thriller has been compared to Get Out—an excellent movie!—and combines themes of racism with a dark academia backdrop.

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
AudienceYoung Adult
GenreThriller; Dark Academia
SettingUnited States
Number of Pages440
Format I ReadHardcover
Original Publication DateJune 1, 2021

Official Summary

Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.

All you need to know is . . . I’m here to divide and conquer. Like all great tyrants do. —Aces

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

Review

Chiamaka and Devon are both in their senior year at Niveus Private Academy, an elite school that boasts impressive alumni from its many decades. An old-school institution, Devon is announced as one of four Senior Prefects and Chiamaka is the Head Prefect; this will certainly boost their college applications. So things seem to be going well… until anonymous texts start going out to everyone in the school, sent by someone only known as Aces. Each text reveals a dirty little secret—at first just embarrassing, then increasingly dangerous—and the exposed victims are only ever Devon and Chiamaka. Is someone trying to sabotage them? Why only them? Could it be a racist prank? They are the only two Black students at the school.

Right away, I liked Devon as a character; in some ways I related to him. He’s poorer than his classmates, there on scholarship, and he’s an introvert who mostly keeps to himself. He had one friend, but since coming out as gay, he’s now essentially a loner. His main solace and passion is music; he’s a skilled pianist with dreams of a musical career.

Chiamaka, on the other hand, is more abrasive. She’s ambitious (which I do admire), but she’s ruthless and even mean. While she has monetary wealth, all she lacks is power, perhaps in part because she’s Black and from an immigrant family. She comes across as shallow and can barely give Devon the time of day. But for both their sakes, they’ll have to learn to get along if they want to unravel this mystery of why they’re being targeted by Aces.

There are certain big reveals that happen—and indeed, some comparisons this book has gotten are quite telling—and although I had already figured them out, it was still morbidly shocking when each twist was confirmed. The final part of the book becomes exhilarating, a breakneck thriller as Chiamaka and Devon race to not only get out alive, but also destroy this entire institution of evil. Despite the exciting final act, the ending was a bit anticlimactic. If it had been just a bit bigger or more thrilling, it would have been a 5-star read.

Final Thoughts

Ace of Spades is an engrossing and fast-paced thriller. Comparisons to Gossip Girl and Get Out are apt: It’s rather clique-y in its elite school setting, and racism does play a central role in the danger both characters face. Between Devon and Chiamaka, I found the former to be a more relatable and likable character, but even so, it was satisfying to see them work together. This is only Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from her.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

About the Author

Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is the instant New York Times, International bestselling & Award-winning author of ACE OF SPADES. She is an avid tea drinker, a collector of strange mugs and a recent graduate from a university in the Scottish Highlands where she received a BA in English Literature. She is currently pursuing an MA in Shakespeare Studies from Kings College London. When she isn’t spinning dark tales, Faridah can be found examining the deeper meanings in Disney channel original movies. She is represented by Zoë Plant at The Bent Agency.

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