At last year’s Scrabble tournament, Najwa’s best friend Trina died unexpectedly. Now, Najwa has returned to the tournament with the goal of claiming her friend’s title, Queen of the Tiles. But when Trina’s Instagram starts posting cryptic messages that imply that her death was no accident, Najwa must find out who’s behind these posts and who was responsible for Trina’s demise.
This is a suspenseful novel full of suspicious characters, clues, and wordplay. I thought it was a really fun mystery and I enjoyed unraveling clues alongside Najwa and diving into the cutthroat world of competitive Scrabble.
The large cast of characters helps to move the story along, as does the slow reveal of clues and Najwa’s piecing together of a timeline for the day Trina died. I thought the pacing was perfect, each chapter read really quickly and there was always at least one reveal in each chapter that pushed the plot forward. Though we see from Najwa’s perspective, her interviews with different people helped to flesh out the characters. I thought each character was dynamic and had their own motive for wanting Trina dead.
Each chapter begins with a word that foreshadows the coming chapter along with it’s definition, and it’s numeric value in Scrabble which I thought was very fun. Likewise, when the mysterious posts happen on Trina’s Instagram they typically include an anagrammed word which is also fun to puzzle out. I love a good word puzzle and actually ended up learning a lot of words from this novel.
I also really appreciated the depiction of mental health in the novel. Najwa is understandably impacted by witnessing the death of her best friend and she struggles with anxiety, panic attacks, and PTSD. She works with a therapist to address these issues and brings a thoughtfulness to caring for herself that I think is really necessary in young adult literature.
I have to say that I did find the ending a little disappointing. I solved the mystery of the posts relatively early on in the story and I wasn’t satisfied with the explanation behind Trina’s death. Still, there were plenty of twists and red herrings that would probably make this more of a compelling mystery for a younger reader.
I thought this was a fun read with a great protagonist. If you’ve read Queen of the Tiles tell me what you thought!