Review Blog

Jan 17 2020

Slay by Brittney Morris

cover image

Hodder Children's Books, 2019. 330pp. ISBN: 9781444951721. pbk.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are a combination of role playing video games and online games in which a very large number of people interact with one another within a virtual world. As an older reviewer I found I had to immerse myself in the terminology in the book, using the internet to find answers, then jumping into the gaming word portrayed. Most readers of this book will find a more comfortable affinity with the world created by Morris to tell her story about racial inequality in the USA. This multi layered and complex issue is displayed by a range of characters: Kiera, one of four Black students at Jefferson High is peculiarly asked for her opinion as if she is the spokesperson for all Back people, Steph, Kiera's sister is a promoter of African American Vernacular English, Malcolm Kiera's boyfriend is desperate for them both to be accepted into Spelman College, one of the foremost HBCU places (Historically Black College) where he feels he will not have to compete with white students, while Kiera's white friends ask her if it is OK to wear their hair in dreads, or wear an Indian headdress to a fancy dress party. Kiera retreats into the digital world she has created, Slay, where all of the players are black and in playing, understand the rules of the game. And here she can be herself.
Morris very cleverly places all the characters into positions where they are able to reveal the racial tension that underlines their lives. But the game is above all this, or so Kiera believes.
When she finds that one of the players, Anubis has been killed over the paper money used in the game, she is appalled. Not knowing that she is the developer, her friends and family discuss the issues that this Black game creates: is it anti white, discriminatory, is it racist, what happens when the developer is discovered, will he or she be sued for the boy's death? Kiera must solve the crime and the last half of this engrossing tale hangs on crime detection as she and Steph and her friend in Paris untangle the web of clues hidden within the game, leading to a neat resolution with a twist in the tale.
Fran Knight

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