Ace of Spades Review: Privilege & Power in a Private School Setting

September 9, 2021 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 5 stars, Books, Reviews

Ace of Spades Review: Privilege & Power in a Private School SettingAce of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Published by Feiwel & Friends on 1 June 2021
Source: Purchased
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, Own Voices, Suspense, Thriller, Young Adult
Book Depository | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.
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?
With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

What a brilliant and compelling book! Ace of Spades certainly delivers on the Get Out and Gossip Girl comparisons, while delivering shocking twists at the end.

This is one of those books that I couldn’t put down, wanting to know what the solution to the mystery was, and when all the answers were shown, I was just left there in shock and awe.

So what made Ace of Spades so compelling?

Ace of Spades follows two private high school students who couldn’t be more different – Chiamaka, the rich, popular girl at the top of the social hierarchy, and Devon, a musician and scholarship student who has been fairly under the radar at his school. The only thing that they have in common, other than being students at Niveus Private Academy, is that they’re both Black American teens (with Chiamaka being Nigerian-Italian).

They’re targeted by an anonymous bully at school, who progressively reveals their secrets via text message to the student body of the Academy. What do these two seemingly normal high school students have to hide? It turns out there’s a lot more than meets the eye, and someone is determined to ruin their lives. The depths that this bully will go in ruining their lives is completely shocking, and seeing them ostracized by their classmates and friends was also devastating.

Without saying too much, it turns out that things aren’t as simple as they seem on the surface – and the progressive reveal through shocking twists and turns was definitely an eye-opening ride.

Exploring privilege in a private school setting

Ace of Spades masterfully navigates themes of bullying, racism, classism and colourism in an American private school setting. This book explores privilege at it’s purest – whether it’s the colour of your skin or the family and social structures you are born into. Both students have had to navigate challenges based on their identity, just to be considered on the same level playing field as their classmates, so that they can get into the preferred colleges and pursue the future that they have been fighting for. This is something that Ace of Spades portrays expertly, and it definitely gives you some food for thought.

Both characters are also queer

Both Chiamaka and Devon are at different stages of their queer identity – Devon isn’t completely out yet, but he has known he is gay from middle school, and has dated a few different partners. Chiamaka starts the book off heavily crushing on her male best friend, but soon discovers that she may be harbouring feelings for another girl. This becomes another thing that is used against them, and it is terrifying and heartbreaking.

I can’t believe Ace of Spades is a debut novel – it is such a compelling, intelligent and meaningful read that tackles race, class and privilege. This is one of my favourite reads of 2021, and I definitely recommend it to everyone who loves addictive YA thrillers, or just great reads in general.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Trigger warnings: homophobia, racism, sexual abuse (past), drug use and trafficking, suicide

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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2 responses to “Ace of Spades Review: Privilege & Power in a Private School Setting

  1. Oooohhh I haven’t gotten to this one yet, but Get out/Gossip Girl sounds juicyyyyy… I’m interested to see how these topics are introduce in a realistic fiction novel without being all “bam, bam, bam, in your face” about them… This one is definitely on the “to read” list.