Have you ever come across one of those books that sounds like it will be exactly what you’ve been looking for but once you read it, you feel as if it let you down? That was me with this book. Perhaps it was my fault for putting it on a pedestal but I walked away disappointed with this story.
Seventeen year old Kiera has a huge, HUGE secret: She was the creator and developer of the wildly popular online role-playing computer game, Slay. Slay was her brain child that incorporated anything and everything relating to her African American culture and roots. Kiera escaped into Slay where her identity remains secret and she was able to escape the craziness of the everyday. She had every reason to be proud of her creation, until it became the focus of slander after one of the members of Slay was brutally murdered in his sleep. Suddenly all eyes are on the game, going so far as to say it is “racist” because only African American people are allowed to set up profiles and play. Silently she tried to wrestle with her thoughts/feelings/emotions of how her game could be considered “racist” all while her long time boyfriend, Malcolm, believed video games were “partially responsible for the downfall of the Black man”. How can Kiera keep her two worlds apart when they are violently crashing together?
I was driven to this book for several reasons – I mean the premise alone of a girl gamer had my full attention. What I was not prepared for was the amount of repetitiveness found within the pages of the book. I am willing to bet that 30% or more of this book is nothing but repeating what had already been said just pages before. There was so much reiterated that I found myself skimming HUGE chunks of chapters and never missed anything important. It could have been wildly descriptive paragraphs that did not describe anything important to the story but they took up pages and pages doing nothing more than adding length to an already wordy novel. If you mixed that with Kiera’s constant need to internally rehash arguments with herself, you’ve got a lot of what could be considered wasted space. I get that there was a lot of pondering and wondering and questioning going on with Kiera and her game, but there was no real need to say the same things every couple of pages. Was it to remind the reader of what took place just minutes ago or was there another true reason for it? I may never know but I know skipping did not hinder my ability to follow the story.
That being said, I felt the characters were also lacking substance. I found the side characters, Steph (Kiera’s sister) and Cicada (Kiera’s moderator in Slay), were the most interesting. I really wish they both had larger parts because they seemed the most energetic. There was far too much forced drama between the rest of the characters. It could have been removed because the “tension” was not necessary. The one character I despised the most was Malcolm. That boy reeked of bad news like nobody’s business. He had so much built up aggression that he seemed like he was a reject from a Spike Lee movie. I applauded him for having so much love for his race and culture, but Malcolm took it too far.
The story had moments of being face paced but all of the rehashing and repeating made me quickly lose interest. I did finish but I was not excited about it. The big reveal before the final pages was a surprise but not enough to make me change my mind or feelings about what I read. It was not enough to save this book. The ending felt super rushed, as if Morris had five pages to fit everything into it and make it pretty. It all felt too perfect and not believable. Again, I skimmed and skipped a lot because I really wanted to be done with this. I’m not upset that I read it but I’m disappointed with what I read.