There are very few books that have surprised me. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it doesn't happen very often. In fact, I can count on one hand the amount of times it’s occurred in my whole life. Granted, this is my job. I write and I read. That’s it. That’s what I do. And I like to think I’m pretty good at it. So when I find a story that leaves me breathless, it’s a big deal. SLAY delivers on that (and every single) front more than once. There were things I got to experience that I didn’t even know to ask for in a young adult book anymore. I’m still in shock, I think. The twist at the end was as good, if not better, than the twists and turns throughout the entire novel. If that’s even possible.
Before we get started, I should say that in order to claim the spot of a ‘pick of the month’, you’ll need to cover some ground. The first thing for me is always worldbuilding. Even if that world is our own, I want to feel like I could go there, and Brittney Morris’ technique in mind melting, in the best way possible. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to climb through the pages of my Harry Potter books and live at Hogwarts. I mean, the Christmas scenes alone were enough for that, right? And I got to have that again with this book. The game SLAY, which features prominently in the storyline, is so rich and diverse I wanted to cry (read: did definitely cry like a little baby). I never once would view it as info dumping, the bane of readers everywhere. It was lush. It was staggering. It.was.AH-MAZING! It made me wish a VR game like that really existed. And never once during the set-up chapters, or act one, did I feel rushed or bored. I didn’t want to skip anything. Several times, I was a bit tempted, but not because the writing wasn’t good. It’s because I had to know what happened next.
Now, next up for me is relatability, and I want to start this off by being frank. I couldn’t relate to most of Kiera or Steph or Cicada’s arcs because I am not a young black female. I’m not even what anyone would consider young anymore. However (and this is important), never once did that pull me out of the story. Never once did I want to stop and put the book down because I just couldn’t possibly understand what that felt like. Have I been brushed aside before? Yes. Have I been ignored? Yes. I am a woman, after all. But I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I haven’t had it like that. But if I can’t use what little privilege I do have to lift up those who deserve it, regardless of their skin tone, then what are we even doing? The point here is that I respect the boundaries set forth by other communities I can’t be a part of and use the tools I was given to make sure all voices are heard. And, damnit (sorry mom!), Keira’s voice should be heard! Her story should be told because it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. It is realistic, and that’s both a problem and a major selling point. These are things we need to be open to discussing, and we can’t if we don’t know these stories exist.
Finally, the last marker for me is re-readability. If I can read it more than once and still get excited and nervous and whatever else kind of feels I had the first time, it’s a good book. I can already tell you that when I go back and read this one again, I’ll catch something else mind-blowing I didn’t the first time around. It's that good!
TL;DR (... or in conclusion for the old folks like me), I actually LOL’d several times, I definitely cried, and all I want now is the movie version of this book. Also, GO READ IT!!