[ARC Review] Queen of Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

3 Things About This Book
| Scrabble Tournaments | Mysterious Death of Protag’s BFF | People Dealing with Grief in Different Ways |

Queen of Tiles by Hanna Alkaf
Published: 2022 by Simon & Schuster
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Book Depository

What would you do when your best friend suddenly dies right in front of you? Would you let others replace her legacy as the reigning champion? Or, would you claim it for yourself, for the sake of her memory?

In Queen of Tiles, Najwa refuses to let others erase Trina’s legacy, though her return to the competitive scrabble scene is more than just that. She’s looking to heal and move on with her life…until Trina’s inactive Instagram starts posting again, leaving cryptic messages that suggest that she was instead, murdered and someone at the competition is the killer. So, what can Najwa do now that the closest people around her are suspects? Report to the authorities? Psssh, no. She’s gonna figure everything out to save both Trina and herself.

Keeping in mind that the characters are all underage and they’re stuck in a hotel where the scrabble tournament is held, there’s a limit to how much can be done. Even so, the way the mystery unravels is quite engaging—ridiculous at times, plenty predictable (for me, as someone who reads quite a bit of crime, mysteries and thrillers) and a little too neatly wrapped up, but still engaging. The truth behind Trina’s death is refreshing too, though it does feel rather anti-climatic since the entire story hinges on the mystery.

Other than that, I like that Queen of Tiles is more about the way different people mourn and handle their grief. Whether they liked Trina before she died, felt indifferent about her or cared deeply for her, they’ve all been touched by her death somehow and we get to see that through Najwa’s eyes. However, I do think that this aspect could’ve been stronger if the other characters were better fleshed out. They all have strong foundations for their identities but they’re also rather…typical. Don’t get me wrong, I like Najwa and her obsession with words and their meanings. She’s relatable and definitely the best-developed character here. But, it also felt like I was reading stereotypes instead of complex characters and that weakened the emotional impact of the story on me.

All in all, this was a solid read. If you’re looking for a lighter Young Adult mystery with an uncommon setting (scrabble tournament + Southeast Asian rep), give Queen of Tiles a read.

Thank you so much Pansing for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review! Queen of Tiles by Hanna Alkaf is available at all good bookstores.



4 thoughts on “[ARC Review] Queen of Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

  1. Aah I just read this too! I definitely agree that the resolution was a bit too tidy (I feel like I was looking for a bigger catastrophe?), but the thing I really appreciated was how complicated the main character’s relationship with Trina was, and how she’s still untangling it. I really got a sense of Trina and her buried flaws kind of haunting the book, and that made it really compelling for me. Loved the Scrabble gameplay, too, that was really fun 👀

    But yeah, I think it would’ve been great to have just a bit more for the side characters to chew on too! They also had complicated relationships with Trina, but a lot of that got crowded out by archetype (the obsessed player; the boyfriend; the mom-friend, etc.) Lovely review, it was so cool to hear your thoughts on this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg, coincidence! I love the eloquent way you put Trina’s imperfections—buried flaws haunting the book is exactly what it is, and now I’m seeing the book in a new light 😮 Also, yes! I wanted to see more from the characters too, and was slightly disappointed by how they weren’t only archetypal in the ways you’ve mentioned but in Malaysian stereotypes too (though those stereotypes aren’t far from reality). I can’t wait to read your review on this book 😍

      Liked by 1 person

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