It’s my final blog tour of the year, and what a tour to finish on! What a book to finish on! Thank you as ever to The Write Reads for all his hard work, to Egmont Books for my proof copy, and to the author B. B. Alston for writing a stunner of a book.
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.
While I’m not one for pushing star ratings, this is a five star straight off the bat.
Amari doesn’t fit in where she goes to school. She worked hard for her scholarship, sure. But the kids all know she’s there because she’s poor, and that’s all they care about. She stands out for all the wrong reasons. I know those feelings; I was a scholarship kid. I immediately warmed to Amari, and wanted to reach through the pages and hug her close.
With her brother, and rock, missing, Amari has been struggling. So when strange things start happening, all sparked off from Quinton, Amari doesn’t question before jumping in. She wants answers. So when the place she heads off to to get those answers leaves her standing out just as much, if not more, than she was before, things explode out of control before she’s even unpacked her favourite jeans.
It’s all too much at times, but Amari really grows throughout the book, learning to stand up both for herself, but also outside of her brother’s shadow, finding the confidence she needs to be proud of who she is, not just because she is Quinton’s sister, but because of herself, and that’s a beautiful thing to see happen over the course of a novel. A young woman, learning to be proud of her place in the world, and hold her head up high… what a great message to send.
Amari’s time at the Bureau isn’t without difficulties, both the normal ones – wanting to pass her tests as a special agent – and the ones she has to face individually, but she finds a good true friend in Elsie, her roommate, and a surprising ally who continues to surprise throughout – no spoilers from me, you’ll just have to read it!
There were a few twists and turns I spotted coming throughout but, as this is middle grade, I can understand spotting them at nearly 30, and knowing they were coming didn’t dismiss my enjoyment of the novel at all. It’s beautifully crafted for adults and children alike, calling on all of us to see the beauty in individuals, and not be scared because someone might look, act, or generally just be different from who we are. It’s about learning who you are, picking yourself up when you’re knocked down, and making hard choices. It’s a book, really, about living life.
Due out next month, this book is just waiting to whisk you off in a magical lift to who knows where. Maybe you’ll even find out what your superpower is. For children of all ages, and adults too, this is what January needs to dispel those winter blues.