Being a computer programmer myself, I really loved the Black girl coder representation. I can relate to having long nights searching through Google, StackOverflow, etc. to find the right (or close to the right) thing to make my code work.
I really loved Kiera and her relationship with her sister, which somewhat reminds me of my relationship with my own little sister. I also enjoyed how her relationship with Cicada grows throughout the book. Harper and her little brother were annoying. Her little brother was almost intolerable. However, I understand their part in the story: the ignorant White friends. I honestly could not stand her boyfriend, Malcolm, from the beginning. My feelings for him only grew more negative as the book progressed. I find it a little odd that both the main male characters were portrayed with few (if any) redeeming qualities while the female characters had quirks that weren’t necessarily negative. I wish the characterization could have been more balanced in that aspect.
Some of the chapters took the reader away from Kiera’s point of view. The Cicada chapters were a nice way to intermix how her friendship with Kiera affected her and why she needed SLAY. However, the other chapters seemed more like filler with characters that had little effect on the plot. Those could have been cut to save some time and refocus on the plot.
Even though I really enjoyed the game of SLAY and the vivid descriptions of the cards taking form, I had some moments where it was difficult for me to suspend my disbelief. Thousands of members on multiple servers throughout the world with only two people moderating? I moderated a forum years ago and even with the few hundred we had, we needed way more than two. Also, I often asked myself what exactly were the sites rules regarding harassment and the like when a troll entered SLAY to disrupt it. As the creator, Kiera should have implemented rules regarding harassment and could have easily banned the troll for that. Due to the plot, she didn’t, but I found that a little hard to believe. I also doubted how hundred and then thousands of people (even if they were all Black) could have coexisted peacefully for three years without any incidents.
Overall, the female characters were great and the game SLAY was super creative, but the male characters were more like evil caricatures and the believability diminished as the book progressed. Those are the reasons why I would give Slay a 3.5 out of 5.