Book Review: Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: June 1st, 2021
Pages: 432, hardcover
Source: Library

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?

There were aspects of this I really liked, but there were two big things that kept breaking my suspension of disbelief: 

1. Where are the parents? We have a reasoning for Devon’s mother not really being present in the story, but what about Chiamaka’s parents? Chiamaka reasons that her white Dad, who wouldn’t even protect her from his family’s racism, won’t be much help and of course she doesn’t want her parents to know about what she’s done, but her mother is almost forgotten and there’s no reason given for why. It feels like this was originally written with Chiamaka and Devon in college, that’s how little their parents are around. If Niveus really wanted to ruin their lives, why wouldn’t they pull their parents in as well? 

2. The ending was fine, but it suffers from the same flaw as in Get Out‘s ending: Once you think about where things go from there, it sort of falls apart. I couldn’t buy that Niveus and the Aces wouldn’t somehow pin the events of the ending on Chiamaka and Devon, that they were beaten by this one thing that happened. I do understand what the author was going for (an institution built on racism and white supremacy can’t be salvaged, and the only way forward is scorched Earth) but it wasn’t well thought out. 

At times I got the feeling I was reading a draft of the novel. The main plot was mostly pinned down, but everything else sort of fell by the wayside, including Chiamaka and Devon’s relationship, the setting, and the fact that the author had to very obviously make the parents disappear in order to get the plot to do what it needed to do. 

The atmosphere was appropriately claustrophobic and sinister, and I liked both Devon and Chiamaka’s characters. Their voices were distinct from each other, and their stories on their own stand up well. Their relationship just never clicked for me, especially not to the point that the author took them to in the ending. It seemed as if they mostly tolerated each other because they had to, and I couldn’t see them being in contact after the events of the book. 

Ace of Spades has a lot of good things going for it, but the execution was sloppy. I look forward to what Àbíké-Íyímídé does in the future, as I think once she has more experience writing books, the issues I had in this book will disappear.

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