Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Published on August 12, 2022

Queen of the Tiles Book Cover. A girl wearing a gray shirt, long black sleeves, and a cream colored hijab stands against a red background. Scrabble tiles float around her.

Reviewed by Jayde Valosin

Trina was the Queen of the Tiles- Scrabble champion extraordinaire- until she wound up dead on the Scrabble board at the end of a competition. One year later, her best friend Najwa knows it's time to move on in her grieving process and return to the Scrabble scene. Maybe she can even honor Trina's legacy as the new Queen of the Tiles- that is, if she can beat Mark (Trina's ex), Josh (who was playing Trina when she died), Puteri (Trina's nemesis), and each and every other talented word whiz who shows up to this year's Scrabble competition. Things seem to be going well for Najwa, until someone begins posting to Trina's Instagram, leaving clues that could potentially lead to Trina's killer. Najwa knows she needs to team up with her competition in order to solve the mystery. But is she solving the right one?

Hanna Alkaf has woven a truly unique mystery with Queen of the Tiles. The settings- both Kuala Lumpur, and the Scrabble competition- are ones not often seen in young adult fiction, giving the story a fresh feel and providing educational context into the unique cultures of these settings. Readers don't need to know anything about Scrabble to follow along, or find interest in the story, as Alkaf does a great job of explaining any relevant rules and gameplay tactics. Unique words and their definitions are used throughout the story and head new chapters to provide more information about the plot and Najwa's feelings. In addition to the mystery, this book also offers an examination of the grieving process and Najwa's desire to move on without forgetting Trina, which will hit home for anyone who has lost someone close. A great story for word nerds, mystery lovers, and those looking for a new take on the familiar genre.

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