Genre: Thriller (Dark Academia) Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone CW: racism, homophobia, bullying, suicide ideation
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…
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
ACE OF SPADES is a book I saw doing the publicity rounds for a while and, given I like thrillers and I loved the dark academia book I read earlier this year, decided I might as well try it.
It’s a pacy thriller alternating between Devon and Chiamaka’s perspectives as their secrets are exposed to the school, digging into institutionalised racism. I read it in one afternoon (instead of packing, oops) the pages turning easily because I wanted to know how the secrets had been collected and were getting out.
The alternating POV manages to work consistently without feeling forced, which is pretty impressive. Often rigid structure in POVs can feel like it’s stifling a story, forcing chapters to be in a specific place or from a certain POV to continue the pattern.
Also, dual POV book with a boy and girl lead who don’t get together? Yes please! Instead, their relationships with others are used against them, but they still find happiness. Devon’s relationship is the one that’s on page the most and who’s happily ever after relationship isn’t just established in the epilogue.
I would probably need to read more dark academia books to make up my own mind about what makes this sub-genre. The impression I got from social media discourse around it is that a hallmark of the sub-genre is that the protagonists are actually anti-heroes and there’s a lot of questions about what is real/true.
This didn’t have that vibe for me – the heroes were heroes and there was never any question about if all this was happening to them, or why. It felt more thriller leaning than that expectation of dark academia (which could be the wrong expectation.) It does makes me want to know what constitutes dark academia in the first place. Guess it’s time to read some more dark academia?
It is a standalone, but the epilogue sounds like it’s leaving the option open for the author to write a sequel if there’s an idea and enough demand (given its instant bestseller nature, I’d say it has the demand.)