Dark academia. Relevant social commentary. Anonymous texts.
Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is a 21-year-old British university student that landed a million-dollar book deal in the US for her first novel. The thriller is set in an elite high school, the story follows two Black teens
Àbíké-Íyímídé is from London and was only 19 when she began writing what would become Ace of Spades. The young adult novel, which follows two black students trying to find out who is spreading damaging rumors about them at their elite private school.
"[I am a] writer from South London who has dreamt of writing books about black kids saving (or destroying) the world all her life. [I am] an avid tea drinker, and a collector of strange mugs," Faridah writes in her website.
Àbíké-Íyímídé is releasing her debut novel "Ace of Spades" on June 1, 2021 and it will be published by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan in the US.
Ace of Spades has been coined as a mix of Gossip Girl and Get Out. Set in an elite high school, "Ace of Spades" follows two teens—Devon and Chiamaka—at their private academy. Suddenly, their secrets are spilled by an anonymous texter who goes by Aces. As their lives take a sharp turn, Devon and Chiamaka have a choice to make. They can either surrender or fight back against whoever wants to take them down.
When writing the book, Àbíké-Íyímídé described the whole experience as "hard, scary, frustrating."
"I am really proud of finishing this book," Àbíké-Íyímídé said. "It was very difficult to write at times and I'm so happy persisted and didn't give up."
Àbíké-Íyímídé found it especially challenging to flesh out and develop her characters.
"Aspects of my main characters' lives are taken from my real experiences and so it was very challenging having to revisit difficult feelings and situations, but I'm glad I did and hope that some of these scenes resonate with people," Àbíké-Íyímídé said.
Unlike Àbíké-Íyímídé, she describes her characters as being nothing like her.
"I am very unlike the characters I write, because in order to write them I need to be a little detached from them," Àbíké-Íyímídé explained. "However, I do have a lot of similar experiences to Devon. His neighborhood and upbringing is definitely inspired by my own."
"Ace of Spades" also touches on how race often intersects with class. The novel explores how racism is systemic and isn’t merely one individual saying anti Black microaggressions and hating a person. Additionally, the story explores how class adds to privilege, and this is exemplified in how Chiamaka, who grew up and lives in a rich neighborhood, versus Devon, who is from a poorer neighborhood and navigates and perceives society in a different perspective.
"People of all backgrounds read books and therefore deserve to be represented in the stories they consume," Àbíké-Íyímídé said
Devon – a poor Black boy who gets into the private school by scholarship, has to grapple with his classmates' racism and classism, ultimately creating barriers to success in Black students.
To add on to the lessons or take-aways that readers could gain from Ace of Spades, Àbíké-Íyímídé replied with "That Black people deserve happy endings."
Àbíké-Íyímídé draws her inspiration from the work of other authors.
"I am a really big fan of Jason Reynolds, Patrick Ness and Akwaeke Emezi," Àbíké-Íyímídé said, "Their work is brilliant and I love the kinds of stories they all tell."
As a 21-year-old who scored a seven figure book deal at such a young age, Àbíké-Íyímídé is a role model for budding writers.
"Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too young to be a writer and also don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t strive for a creative career,” Àbíké-Íyímídé said. “I believe that life is too short to listen to what others want for you and not what you want for you."