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As one of only four Black kids at her preppy high school, Kiera gets tired of answering stupid questions. Like, “Can I wear dreadlocks?” How is she supposed to answer that? Do they expect her to speak for all Black people? It’s one of the reasons she created SLAY, an online VR gaming universe exclusively for other Black gamers. In SLAY, Black gamers can just be themselves without having to worry about facing the kind of harassment Kiera experienced in other MMORPGs. But when one of the players is murdered IRL, SLAY becomes the subject of international attention and a catalyst for racially charged conflict and conversation.
Engaging from page one, SLAY uses a gaming lens to explore the diversity of Black experiences in the US and around the world. From Kiera–an American high schooler trying to balance the expectations of her friends, boyfriend, and family with her own hopes for herself–to an assortment of other players around the globe, readers see how Black people experience discrimination in various social and even family settings. We also see through Kiera’s experience how the VR experience that allows her to express herself authentically without discomfort or fear of judgment (an experience she does not have IRL at her high school) can also allow bigots to play out violent racist fantasies without fear of consequences. This book is important and beautifully written. I highly recommend it to teens and adults.