Author: Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Release Date: 10/6/21
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 52
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Usborne Publishing ,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
*An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game… *
Wow what a book! This is an edge of your seat, biting your nails, second guessing everyone and everything thriller of the best kind. I devoured this book, only putting it down as I had to go to work. It had me hooked and I just had to know how it all turned out for our two main characters.
The plot is fantastic dealing with such important issues such as Racism, classism, sexism and homophobia in a twisting, turning story line reminiscent of Gossip girl or Pretty little liars. It tackles these issues on multiple levels, from institutionalised and societal racism to microaggressions. Even between the too main characters who are both Black and facing the same targeting at school, one is from an affluent family, the other is a scholarship kid and there are moments of judgement based of those social classes subtlety peppered into there conversations. All of these fine discussions are interwoven into a plot that packs a punch. It gaslights, throws curve balls and has big reveal at just the right moments to keep the pages turning. It wasn’t afraid to get dark and sometimes spine chilling. It also took some of the typical tropes of YA high school thriller and just addresses them head on, while others are twisted and played with throughout the story.
I loved the main characters. I really enjoyed how unapologetic Chiamaka was at the beginning of the story, being the "it" girl, one of the mean girls, the one to be feared and I love how her fire and drive that got her to that position kept her going throughout. Devon was also such a powerful character but in such a different way, his compassion and faith in finding the good in others is admirable. I really loved all the detail and nuisance to both of them, they are not paragons of virtue and valour they are teenagers that make mistakes and stupid decisions, but also brave decisions and I found myself really invested in their stories. There is also fantastic Queer rep, that again is explored with the factors of social class, race and sex in place.
Its just a really well crafted debut, impactful and thoughtful while also having that real buzz of YA Thriller that just makes you want to read more.