Slay

by Brittney Morris

4.71 of 5 stars 7 ratings • 5 reviews • 27 shelved
Book cover for Slay

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Slay

by Brittney Morris

4.71 of 5 stars 7 ratings • 5 reviews • 27 shelved
'We are different ages, genders, tribes, tongues, and traditions ... but tonight we all SLAY'

Black Panther meets Ready Player One. A fierce teen game developer 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.

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is a college student, and one of the only black kids at Jefferson Academy. By night, she joins hundreds of thousands of black gamers who duel worldwide in the secret online role-playing card game, SLAY.

No one knows Kiera is the game developer - not even her boyfriend, Malcolm. But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, the media labels it an exclusionist, racist hub for thugs.

With threats coming from both inside and outside the game, Kiera must fight to save the safe space she's created. But can she protect SLAY without losing herself?

(P)2019 Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN10 1534445420
  • ISBN13 9781534445420
  • Publish Date 24 September 2019
  • Publish Status Active
  • Publisher Simon & Schuster
  • Imprint Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 336
  • Language English

Reviews

Avatar for pinkadot89

Angie 4 of 5 stars
Slay was wild! And thought-provoking, and infuriating, and cheer-inducing, and...wild. I know next-to-nothing about MMORPGs. I'm a Simmer, so I understand the addiction of videogames and using them as an escape and a safe place. Which is what Kiera's game, Slay, is. It's an escape and safe place for Black teenagers (and really Black people of all ages as we find out). But that safety is threatened when a teen is murdered over the game, and people start calling it exclusionary and racist. Kiera not only feels guilt over this boy's death, but she also fears being sued for creating a game that not-so-subtly caters to a Black audience.

I'll start with what bothered me about Slay. How in the world did Kiera and Cicada (her real name is revealed later) create a game with 500,000 players by themselves with no jobs? Kiera is in high school and Cicada is in college. Both are very academically inclined, so they have no jobs to earn income to pay for this game. We get brief mentions of Kiera commissioning art from online artists and some donations, but she's created an ENTIRE WORLD with multiple regions, weapons, armor, clothing, animals, and 1,200+ battle cards! And this isn't some flat, text-based games. It's VR and fully immersive! That is not cheap. Not to mention the server costs and other maintainable. It was amazing, but not even remotely believable.

I was able to look past that though, because I just got sucked into Kiera's story. She poured her heart and soul into building a game where she felt welcome and safe. She was able to create a character who looked like her without fear of harassment. She was able to pull from all facets of Black culture to create something wonderful, fun, and educational. She's doing what she felt was right for other Black people. Not everyone agrees with her, including her asshole boyfriend who thinks Black people need to focus on education and business and family only. Black people are not a monolith, obviously.

Slay gets pretty intense when Kiera is faced with a possible lawsuit and the potential for her identity to be revealed. This would be scary for an adult, but for a 17 year old girl, it's just crazy. She handles it all in the best way she knows how though: in the battle arena! Yeah, it gets super nerdy in here! It kind of makes me want to play...

Avatar for kiracanread

kiracanread 5 of 5 stars
Slay is an incredible, poignant read based on the use of modern technology and internet communities, making it relatable to most current, young audiences. There is a focus on the diversity of gaming communities which I found to be really interesting, as I personally know how toxic gaming communities can be, although not the experiences of a black gamer, so I got to see this from a new perspective. I really enjoyed the concept of this book, and I think that Brittney Morris is an incredible writer, I loved the writing style and I really can't wait to read more from them. Slay kept me hooked from beginning to end, there wasn't a single moment where I wanted to stop reading and I read the book extremely fast because I couldn't bear to put it down, it flowed so well and was just so enjoyable to read.

Avatar for sarahsays

Sarah Says 5 of 5 stars
I loved SLAY. It is the kind of book that’s so engrossing you can’t put it down. The placing and the plot are phenomenal.

This is a book celebrating Black power and Black pride. This is a book about finding a safe space to be 100% yourself. This is a book about the good and the bad of online gaming. This is a book of a girl growing into a proud, brave and strong black women despite our modern society.

I loved the celebration of black history in this book. I loved the incite it will give non-gamers into what it feels like to immerse yourself fully into an online world. I loved being on this sometimes-nerve-racking journey with Kiera and Claire.

The POV alternates between game developer Kiera, game moderator Claire, with a few chapters sprinkled in from SLAY players. I loved the chapters from game players, but especially Jaylen’s, it really built out the whole SLAY experience. I wanted to jump into the pages and hug Jaylen, then give her a safe place to live were she could be a her and be the Queen she is in on the inside.

For three years Kiera has made and maintained a safe online space for Black gamers, but she has kept it a secret from the people in her life, each for different reasons. The secret catches up with her when everything she’s created comes under fire after a tragic event causes the mass population (white assholes) find out about the game and their exclusion. Nothing is over exaggerated in this book, as a white person I read it and thought, yep that’s how all those white males who never had to want for anything in their life would react and F*** you they deserve a safe place away from you assholes.

The dedication for this book reads “To everyone who has ever had to minimize who you are to be palatable to those who aren’t like you”. And the last line in the author’s acknowledges reads “To the Black gamers out there hungry for more heroes who look like us, I wrote this for you. #SLAY” I think these two sentences tell you all you really need to know about this fantastic read.

I say it all the time when I’m talking about queer books, everybody deserves to see themselves represented on the page, and that goes for on the screen also. I think this book perfectly gets that message across from an inside perspective. This book is never preachy, but it is real, and the message comes through loud and clear.

I loved this book and I think everybody should read it.

Side note: The whole time I was reading this book I was thinking what a fantastic movie this would make, fingers crossed it makes the jump like THUG and the world gets an equally awesome movie adaptation.

“Kings and queens, you know the drill. We are here first and foremost to celebrate Black excellence in all its forms, from all parts of the globe. We are different ages, genders, tribes, tongues, and traditions. But tonight, we are all Black. And tonight, we all SLAY.”

Avatar for heather



Slay is a great book if you are capable of massive suspension of disbelief.

I love the description of the game.  The virtual reality world that this game exists in sounds absolutely amazing.  I'd love to see video games like this.  In the world of this book V.R. technology appears to be commonplace.  It is much more technologically advanced than we are now but everything else besides gaming seems to be about the same level of technology.

Slay is a virtual world where people duel using powers granted to them by cards that they draw from a deck.  The cards are based on aspects of black lives across the globe.  Mom's Macaroni and Cheese makes the ground your opponent is standing on gooey so they get stuck.  The Afro card surrounds you in a protective bubble of hair.  Other cards on based on famous people.  I loved reading about the cards.  The world building here was so inventive and funny.  It was everything I love about fantastical worlds. 

In order to play Slay you need to have a passcode from another player.  It is understood but never explicitly stated that you have to be black to play.  When a top player is murdered in real life because of a dispute about the game, the media finds out about the exclusivity of Slay.  They start to debate about whether or not it is racist to limit play to black people. 

There are great discussions about harassment of black videogamers and the importance of having spaces where you can be yourself.  Who gets to decide what is black culture? 

This part of the story is all good.  The problems come if you think about the details too much.

Supposedly this game was built by a teenager.  It has 500,000 players using virtual reality.  Where is this being hosted?  How is it being paid for?  It is a free game with no apparent advertising.  The murder was over people pooling resources in the game.  It implies that there was money being spent on the game but she never seems to collect any money.  How would a minor be able to set up a company that could do that alone?  Somehow her family has never noticed that she is running a massive undertaking from her bedroom.  She doesn't really seem to do much but moderate some large duels.  She talks about adding new features and about some glitches but she never seems to fix anything.  She goes to school full time, has a boyfriend, tutors, does her homework, and goes to bed early.  Nothing ever seems to crash or absolutely need her attention.  Games need teams of people to keep them going but she checks in for a few hours a day when she can get away from her family?  Not likely.


If you can let all that go and pretend that this is a totally self sustaining game, then you can enjoy the larger social issues brought up in the story.  This review was originally posted on Based On A True Story

Avatar for layawaydragon

Read for free on RivetedLit.com on Dec 15th 2019.

This was fucking amazing. Immediately engaging, I didn't want to put it down, each character jumps off the page, love the multiple POVs, so much knowledge and humor and love. No issues, no qualms, no ifs or buts about it. The toxic manipulative romantic relationship is realistic and handled so well. Also, trans* inclusive. I cried at the end.

The hype is real and deserved and I'm sure they could make it a kickass movie.

I'm so so glad this was published and I hope it does amazingly forever and we get so many more books like this!

And if ya'll don't get it, that's your own fault.

Re: Unbelievable Set Up w/ Game:
Your biasracist upbringing is showing. The bar always gets raised to impossible heights for black women, which is bullshit. And it happens without thinking, without realizing it for most people. So you have to consciously let it the fuck go!

And no, no one's buying, "I'm like this for every book regardless." Except other racists. Look around you.

Re: Kiera & Game Being Racist:
WOW, the caudacity. Racism = Prejudice + Power. Social politics 101. It's not possible for Kiera to be racist against white people. She is not even prejudiced against them, just tired of anti-blackness in this society, which comes by the hands and out the mouths of whites most of the time. Malcolm is prejudice with obvious cause against whites and sounds like a black separatist. I don't want to label him as such for sure since it isn't directly stated in text. And honestly, that's fine! Can't blame him. No body's getting goddamn burned or run over by black separatists.

And no, Kiera creating a safe space isn't fucking racist. Just like BET and Spanish channels aren't racist. Just like having women only spaces isn't sexist. Just what fucking hole have ya'll ignorant ass motherfuckers been living in?