Queen of the Tiles

Queen of the Tiles book cover with "Staff Review" banner over top.
By Sarah Smith, Adult Services

It’s no longer the hot new trend, but each morning my mom texts me her Wordle score for the day, I send mine back and then we exchange emojis (insert: thumbs up emoji, heart emoji, sunglasses face). It might be a little bit dorky, but I’m a librarian, I’m used to being a word nerd.

Queen of the Tiles book cover.

If you also consider yourself to be a word nerd and you enjoy a good mystery novel, I think you might like “Queen of the Tiles” by Hanna Alkaf.

The setting for this mystery is a teen Scrabble tournament in a conference hotel in Malaysia. Our narrator and amateur sleuth is Najwa, a talented Scrabble player with an incredibly impressive vocabulary born of her love of words. At last year’s tournament Najwa’s best friend Trina, the reigning Scrabble Champion or eponymous Queen of the Tiles, died. Najwa has been crushed by grief and is struggling with her mental health, and the new tournament is her chance to reclaim a piece of herself.

As the tournament begins, Najwa becomes reacquainted with the other competitors, and as a reader you start to wonder if everyone had a motive to want Trina eliminated. It’s a high stress environment for incredibly talented young people with great expectations for their futures. These aren’t just word nerds! Before reading this book, I had no idea that Scrabble required so much math and strategy to succeed at that level.

Overall, Alkaf has crafted a compelling mystery, a sensitive exploration of grief, and wrapped it all up in a setting that captured my imagination.

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