Ace of Spades Sneak Peek

Ace of Spades Sneak Peek

Faridah àbíké-íyímídé

For all the Black kids drowning in the sunken place,

desperately trying to claw their way out, this book is for you

And for my mum, who believed in me first and gave me

my love of fables

“They say life is full of surprises.

That our dreams really can come true.

Then again, so can our nightmares…”

—Gossip Girl

“All I know is sometimes, if there’s too many white folks … I get nervous.”

—Get Out






First-day-back assemblies are the most pointless practice ever.

And that’s saying a lot, seeing as Niveus Academy is a school that runs on pointlessness.

We’re seated in Lion Hall—named after one of those donors who give money to private schools that don’t need it—waiting for the principal to arrive and deliver his speech in the usual order:

Welcome back for another year—glad you didn’t die this summer

Here are your Senior Prefects and Head Prefect

School values


Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for structure. Ask any of my friends. Correction—friend. I’m pretty sure that, even though I’ve been here for almost four years, no one else knows I exist. Just Jack, who generally acts like there’s something seriously wrong with me. Still, I call him a friend, because we’ve known each other forever and the thought of being alone is much, much worse.

But back to the thing about structure. I’m a fan. Jack knows about the many rituals I go through before I sit down at the piano. Without them, I don’t play as well. That’s the difference between my rituals and these assemblies. Without these, life at Niveus would still be an endless drudge of gossip, money, and lies.

The microphone screeches loudly, forcing my head up. Twenty minutes of my life about to be wasted on an assembly that could have been an email.

I lean back against my chair as a tall, pale guy with dull black eyes, oily black hair slicked back with what I’m sure was an entire jar of hair gel, and a long dark coat that almost sweeps the floor stands at the podium, staring down at us all like we’re vermin and he’s a cat.

“My name is Mr. Ward, but you must all address me as Headmaster Ward,” the cat says, voice liquid and slithery. I squint at him. What the hell happened to Headmaster Collins?

The room is filled with confused whispers and unimpressed faces.

“As I’m sure some of you are aware, Headmaster Collins resigned just before summer break, and I’m here to lead you all through your final year at Niveus Academy,” the cat finishes, his lips pursed.

“So, the rumors were true,” someone whispers nearby.

“Seems like it … I hear rehab is super classy these days, though…”

I hadn’t even heard anything was wrong with Headmaster Collins; he seemed fine before summer. Sometimes I feel like I’m so lost in my own world, I don’t notice the things that seem obvious to everyone else.

“And so,” Headmaster Ward’s voice booms over everyone else’s, “we keep within the Niveus tradition, starting today’s assembly with the Senior Prefects and Head Prefect announcements.”

He swivels expectantly as one stiffly suited teacher rushes forward and hands him a cream-colored envelope. Silently, Headmaster Ward opens it, the paper’s crinkle amplified to a blaring shriek through the speakers. He removes a small card and places the envelope on the podium in front of him. I start to zone out.

“Our four Senior Prefects are…” He pauses, his pupils flicking back and forth like black flies trapped in a jar. “Miss Cecelia Wright, Mr. Maxwell Jacobson, Miss Ruby Ainsworth, and Mr. Devon Richards.”

At first, I think he’s made a mistake. My name never gets called out at formal assemblies. Mostly because these assemblies are usually dedicated to the people the student body knows and cares about, and if Niveus was the setting for a movie, I’d probably be a nameless background character.

Jack elbows me, pulling me from my shocked state, and I push myself out of the chair. The creaking of wooden seats fills the hall as faces turn to glare at my attempt to shuffle through the rows. I mumble a “sorry” after stepping on some guy’s designer shoes—probably worth more than my ma’s rent—before making my way to the front, where the senior teachers are lined up, my sneakers squeaking against the almost-black wood beneath. My heart pounds, and the light applause comes to an awkward stop.

I recognize the other three standing up there, though I’ve never spoken to them. Max, Ruby, and Cecelia are these giant, pale, light-haired clones of each other, and next to them, my short frame and dark skin stick out like a sore thumb. They are main characters.

I stand next to Headmaster Ward, who is even more terrifying up close. For one thing, he’s unnaturally tall, and his legs literally end at the top of my chest. His pupils move toward me, staring, despite his head facing the front.

I look away from him, pretending that the BFG hasn’t got a scary emo brother called Ward.

Faridah àbíké-íyí's Books