Arc Review: Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Title: Queen of the Tiles
Author: Hanna Alkaf
Genre: YA Contemporary / Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: April 19th, 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

CATALYST
13 points
noun: a person or thing that precipitates an event or change

When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It might be even though Najwa’s trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet.

But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it.

As secrets are revealed and the true colors of her friends are shown, it’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these mysterious posts—not just to save Trina’s memory, but to save herself.” (Goodreads)

I had been excited for this one ever since I found it while scrolling on Goodreads last year. It sounded very unique since it was based around a scrabble tournament. I can’t say I have ever read a book with scrabble in it. It definitely brought back memories as my grandma would play with me and beat me, haha. She always knew the best words to play. Although there were aspects of this book I liked, there were also times I just needed more from different parts of the book.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Najwa Bakri. She has been playing in scrabble competitions for awhile now and even got her friend Trina into it too. Things didn’t go so well at the last competition a year ago when her friend mysteriously died and now someone is sending messages from her Instagram. Najwa has her work cut out to solve what is going on as well as keep her head in the game. I liked reading about how she coped with her friend’s death . Najwa is a very strong character even if she doesn’t give herself enough credit.

Because the plot deals with a mystery, there are a lot of suspects. I will say that I didn’t feel much for the other characters because there just wasn’t enough information about them. I didn’t ever really get to know them besides through small conversations which mostly had to do with Trina and the day she died. Najwa definitely had the most development with Trina right behind.

The pacing of the book is what really got to me and had me putting down the book more than picking it up. It does get faster as the book progresses but it’s hard to hang on when the beginning is slow.

Overall, this was good. There are a lot of unique qualities about it like the scrabble competition and the words throughout the book with definitions included. The mystery wasn’t a favorite but I didn’t guess the person until around the reveal so it wasn’t all bad. I think the characters could have used more development but maybe that’s just me. I would definitely give this one a try if you enjoy scrabble or are looking for a light YA mystery.

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