I couldn't put this book down! Brittney Morris artfully weaves some very complex topics in to a story about regular suburban teens. A nuanced look at what it means to be Black in a primarily White community, to search for belonging, to grow apart from someone and closer to others, to create something that is both life-giving and controversial.
Kiera Johnson, a 17 year old honors student, is one of the few black students at a suburban, predominantly white high school. Sick of being the authority on all things "black", she creates a MMORPG game specifically for Black gamers. Played by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, it's her chance to just be her. When a teen is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, her creation is dubbed racist, exclusionary and violent. As Kiera's secret unravels she is forced to examine not only this world she has created but her place in the real world as well.
Even if you aren't a gamer (I'm not) this book is well worth the read. The descriptions of the game are so well done that you really don't need to "get it" to enjoy the game; I was almost more immersed in the sections that took place within the game because of how vividly Morris describes the characters and settings within it. I loved Kiera as a character but wanted some of the other characters to be a little bit better fleshed out as sometimes it felt like their sole role was to place Kiera in positions where she could ponder the meaning of being black in a primarily white suburb. That being said, I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.
As usual, I was not the first person in my house to read this graphic novel. My 10 year old snapped it up before I could even lay a hand on it; 2 hours later she turned to me and said "You should read this one, mom. You'll like it." She was right, I did like it. Robin Ha's memoir of moving from Korea to the United States as a teenager made me think of every immigrant student I've taught, new to English, new to the culture, struggling to make friends and fit in. Her descriptions of life at school tugged at my teacher heart strings, hating the kids who were mean to her, wanting to hug the teacher who was kind. Ha tells an immigrant story that will be familiar to many kids and their parents; at the same time, it is a story that will educate many who have never been in a place of leaving their home for something completely new and completely different.
Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8cuR1d_L-Y
Recommended for Gr 4 & up.
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