I don’t know what it is about the end of the year, but I have been reading a lot of middle grade and it’s all been wonderful. Amari and the Night Brothers is magical, fun, very real despite the supernatural elements, and definitely worth the read. But before I give away all my thoughts, let’s get to my review!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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.
OMG, this book is so fun! As soon as I read that there was a training school Amari was going to and that she’d need to compete to get closer to the people who know where her brother was, I WAS ALL IN! And it definitely didn’t disappoint.
My favorite part was definitely Amari and her relationships with the people at the bureau. I loved her friendship with Elsie. They had fun together, they researched together, and they supported each other. And when Elsie became what she was supposed to become (no spoilers), oh my goodness, I was like a proud mother! lol
I also really enjoyed Amari’s relationship with both Agent Magnus and Agent Fiona. They had her back from the very beginning and it was so fun to not only see how they supported her, but how they interacted together. I would read a prequel about how they became agents and how they became a couple.
Oh and don’t get me started on the way Moreau and the Island of Dr. Moreau is used in this book. I LOVE THAT. I love when old literature is used in new ways.
Amari’s whole characterization is also really well-done. I liked that she’s shown as having struggles in both the “real” world and the supernatural one, but despite those issues, she’s still emotional and strong and ready to do what she can to get her brother back. She never shuts down or pulls her emotions back. She’s allowed to be a kid, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a fighter.
There was really only one moment that I wish went differently and that’s the finale scene where Amari shows off her powers to the school. I hate that Amari feels like in order to be accepted into this world she has to prove she’s good enough or not as dangerous as they think she is. I don’t want kids to feel like they have to prove themselves capable or extraordinary before they can be accepted or loved (I definitely thought that when I was a kid).
Amari should be accepted without needing to put on an extravagant show and making everyone’s jaws hit the floor. She should be accepted without having to prove she’s not like other magicians or some extraordinary exception. I hope in the next books magicians are brought more into the fold of the bureau or at least accepted a hell of a lot more than they are.
Either way, when the next book comes out, I will definitely be checking it out. I had so much fun in this world and can’t wait to go back again.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston is out on January 19, 2021.