Everyone told me it was amazing but I was not prepared for how much I would adore this story. The world Alston has created layers realty with fantasy and I can hardly wait for the next installment.
Quinton Peters was the golden boy of the Rosewood low-income housing projects, receiving full scholarship offers to two different Ivy League schools. When he mysteriously goes missing, his little sister, 13-year-old Amari Peters, can’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal. Why isn’t his story all over the news? And why do the police automatically assume he was into something illegal?
Then Amari discovers a ticking briefcase in her brother’s old closet. A briefcase meant for her eyes only. There was far more to Quinton, it seems, than she ever knew. He’s left her a nomination for a summer tryout at the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari is certain the answer to finding out what happened to him lies somewhere inside, if only she can get her head around the idea of mermaids, dwarves, yetis and magicians all being real things, something she has to instantly confront when she is given a weredragon as a roommate.
Amari must compete against some of the nation’s wealthiest kids—who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives and are able to easily answer questions like which two Great Beasts reside in the Atlantic Ocean and how old is Merlin? Just getting around the Bureau is a lesson alone for Amari with signs like ‘Department of Hidden Places this way, or is it?’ If that all wasn’t enough, every Bureau trainee has a talent enhanced to supernatural levels to help them do their jobs – but Amari is given an illegal ability. As if she needed something else to make her stand out.
With an evil magican threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton. from The Storygraph.
First of all, if you haven’t read this book you need to know that the second in the series is not out yet. Why is this important? Because you are going to want the next one immediately. Fantastic storytelling, wonderful characters, and a world I cannot wait to revisit are all waiting for you in Amari and the Night Brothers.
B.B. Alston has invented a new crack in reality that allows the reader to imagine that, just around the corner, there is magic. I love these kinds of stories. They set my brain wondering about all the things that could be happening right here in the middle of my city. The idea that there is a Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and a place to learn….sigh. I would like to go, please. Someone nominate me.
Amari’s origins bring to the forefront the social and economic aspects of childhood that are missing from so many middle grade fantasies. Not only does Amari live in low-income housing but she attends a rich school on scholarship. Kids have a way of finding out these things (their parents gossip, y’all!) and can be incredibly cruel. Back in her housing though, Amari is seen as special. She is too smart and talented for where she lives and too poor for where she goes to school. When she arrives at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, Amari finds herself on the outside once again.
And while this I-don’t-fit-in theme is fairly typical of middle grade, the attention on Amari’s missing brother is handled more subtly while still being pointed nod to the different way America handles a missing Black man. Here in America the whole country is completely obsessed with the sad story of the murdered Gabbi Petito but, at the same time, Jelani Day, a graduate student here in Illinois, had been missing for weeks with barely any news coverage. Both murders are currently unsolved but Gabbi’s face is still everywhere while all I can find on Jelani is that his death is unsolved. This is the reality that Amari is dealing with layered onto the struggles of middle school, the worries about money, and the new knowledge that there is a whole supernatural world out there.
The layers of this book, the character development and the story (oh, the story) are all so excellent. I finished the book and headed directly over to my local bookseller to pick up the next book. I really thought it was already out! I will just have to take deep breaths and wait until, gulp, April 2022.
This is my final reading for the Orilium challenge! I may not have gotten my reviews up in September but I actually finished all of the books within the month. I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing that feels after my reading slump on slump. Yeah for reading!
Tell me, please! Have you read this? How am I going to wait so long!?!