Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé spent two years writing Ace of Spades while juggling a degree in English, Chinese, and Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen.
Faridah, who is Muslim, chose not to attend booze-filled student gatherings and instead spent her evenings staying up until 4am writing. She said it was a ‘dream come true’ when publisher MacMillan agreed to publish not just Ace of Spades, but a second novel as well.
Described by her publishers as a ‘cross between Gossip Girl and Get Out’, the novel follows the story of musician Devon, and head girl Chiawaka, the only two black students navigating life in a majority white private school.
Faridah told Metro.co.uk: ‘I grew up very working-class like Devon, and I am Nigerian like Chiamaka so in many ways we are similar but also extremely different.
‘I always wanted to read or watch something just like it, that centred black characters and their lives.
‘The story is a lot like Gossip Girl in the sense that it is about the messy lives of wealthy high school students. Blair Waldorf was a huge inspiration for my character Chiamaka.’
She said her biggest priority was making the characters relatable. ‘The book is also like Get Out in the sense that the story takes a famous genre and tropes, turning it on its head.’
The novel unflinchingly tackles themes of homophobia and institutional racism, at a time when millions around the world are calling for equality in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movement.
Faridah said: ‘Because I am writing about the lives of so many different black young adults, topics that impact black people such as homophobia and institutional racism come up in my writing.
‘I wanted to highlight the fact that black people are not a monolith, so I have queer characters and a character that is the child of immigrants.’
Faridah’s name will now join the ranks of Paul Mendez and 2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, British black authors who recently exploded onto the literary scene, as well as author of Noughts and Crosses trilogy, Malorie Blackman.
’Malorie is one of my favourite authors of all time, her books changed my life as a teenager and I hope my books do the same for BAME kids,’ Faridah said.
Ace of Spades will be published next year in June.