Queen of the Tiles by Hanna AlkafQueen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf
Narrator: Catherine Ho
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on April 19. 2022
Source: Purchased
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Mystery
Length: 8 hrs 39 mins
Pages: 304
Format: Audiobook
Purchase at Bookshop.org or Audible
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They Wish They Were Us meets The Queen’s Gambit in the world of competitive Scrabble when a teen girl is forced to investigate the mysterious death of her best friend a year after the fact when her Instagram comes back to life with cryptic posts and messages.

13 points
noun: a substance that speeds up a reaction without itself changing

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.

I don’t read a lot of YA, but Queen of the Tiles combines murder and Scrabble and how could I pass that up? The Queen of the Tiles, Trina Low, is dead. She died a year ago during a championship Scrabble game, but someone has resurrected her Instagram account and is implying that she was murdered.

This was just such an entertaining book. It was well-thought-out and just full of wonderful words. The characters were diverse and, while they had the typical teenage jealousies and overreactions, they weren’t annoying. I was surprised by who the “bad guy” was and happy with the solution, especially because it wasn’t the typical direction a murder mystery heads.

I listened to the audio, which was a good choice. The narrator did a good job with the voices and the teenage emotions. I’m also not sure I could have pronounced some of the Scrabble words without help. Those kids had a massive vocabulary.

  • Complicated female friendships
  • Scrabble and wordplay
  • Exploration of grief and loss
  • Diverse characters

About Hanna Alkaf

Ever since graduating with a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, Hanna Alkaf has worked as a copywriter in online B2B marketing, a senior writer at a major fashion & lifestyle magazine, and a communications manager at a non-profit organization in education. She’s written everything from profiles to press releases, from corporate annual reports to long-form investigative features, from social media posts to email newsletters, and her work has appeared in the Malaysian iterations of Marie Claire, Esquire, Shape, Female, Her World, and more.

Hanna has lived in Malaysia her entire life except for the six years she spent studying and working in and near Chicago. She currently lives near Kuala Lumpur with her husband and two children, and attempts to write books while juggling her never-ending to-do list.

Hanna is one of the co-founders of KitaJagaKita, a volunteer-led directory that verifies and lists civil society movements and mutual aid funds, making it easy to both give and receive help during the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia.


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