Title: Amari and the Night Brothers
Author: B. B. ALston
Publisher: Egmont Books
Publication Date: Jan 2021
Comment: I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review. With thanks to Egmont, @the_writereads and the author. All opinions are mine and were no way enforced by the Magicians.
Amari Peters knows three things.
Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.
No one will talk about it.
His mysterious job holds the secret . . .
So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.
Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives. When each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent. One that the Bureau views as dangerous.
With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the 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 . . .
My original date for this was on the first day but 2020 is… a bunch of words I shouldn’t say on a post meant for middle-graders.
In the past few weeks, 4 members of my extended family have died, and my sister has been rushed into hospital after going blind in one eye.
To say I’ve not been ‘in the mood’ is an understatement of somewhat epic proportions.
I sent a message to @the_writereads explaining and he was kind enough to give me a pass. Which felt oddly like getting a note from your mum explaining to your P.E. teacher that if you had to do one more bleep test you were going to break down in the street, put your pants on your head and start an ABBA medley.
My darling sister is tall, broad and very very claustrophobic and so, naturally, they decided she needed an intense MRI which lasted for an hour. She was enclosed in a coffin for 60 minutes unable to hear, unable to move, and unable to have anyone around to comfort her.
When she got out she called me from the floor of the stairway unable to move, stuttering and shaking, sobbing like her heart was broken.
The complete helplessness you feel when someone you love is in pain or distress and all you can do is talk to them because you can’t be there to hug and protect them is an indescribable agony I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Then, two days later she was informed she’d have to go for another one.
While I waited for her to come out of her second torture session I had to do something to take my mind off what she was going through so I grabbed the book and started to read.
Some books allow you to smile, some allow you to feel and some drag you into their world so much that the real world just slips away.
This last one is what Amari and the Night Brothers did for me.
Which was sorely needed.
Amari Peters is a black girl from the projects. She is used to being judged and ignored, thought of as lesser because of where she comes from. Never mind the fact that her older brother was a certified genius and thought she was brilliant. But now he’s gone missing and everyone thinks he was tied up in something dodgy.
But Amari knows her brother was nothing like that and she is going to prove it.
Out of the blue, she gets an invitation to the same special summer camp Quinton was enrolled in.
Amari is certain that this might be her chance to find out what happened to him so she goes along, only for her world to be blown apart by the knowledge that her brother was a bona fide hero for a magical world she had no idea even existed.
The Bureau is full of all the creatures that Amari thought were myths. But they are real and living amongst humans in disguise.
If Amari wants to join this world, she must compete with other students who have known about this magical world all of their lives. If she wants to fit in, she will have to train harder and be stronger than any of them. And if she wants to find out what happened to her brother, she will have to use all of her cunning, all of her bravery and all of her strength to make it through a place that truly believes she doesn’t belong and will do anything to prove that to her.
Plot- Character-Description (I couldn’t separate them as it all entwines so beautifully)
I think this book will probably be likened to Harry Potter in that a kid who doesn’t know about the magical world is thrust into it but that’s really as far as the comparison should go. Amari is nothing like Harry. She is smart and fearless and used to being the underdog and having to prove herself. Having been constantly told by her mother to keep her head down and her mouth shut so as not to draw attention, Amari has a strength of will and a backbone to match.
She goes into this world on the back-foot, knowing that she has to try twice as hard to be seen as even half as good. But she is willing to do that.
We see her studying and training and using all available options to ensure that she succeeds.
I love her attitude of ‘I will show them’, but without having an arrogance of being better than anyone else. Even when her badge is different to everyone else’s, she doesn’t lord it over them or feel superior.
She was even willing to try to be friends with those who look down on her.
Never having been a small black girl from the wrong side of the tracks, I have no frame of reference for being the object of that amount of internalised racism, classism and abject hatred. I found that the attitudes of her classmates made me so angry. I was both proud and confused that Amari took their abuse in stride. It made me question my white privilege which, while not the point of the book, is a great side-effect nonetheless.
I could gush about Amari non-stop as I found her character so compelling. She was flawed but real and accepted people on their own terms.
Her roommate Elsie, who is a weredragon, was just adorable. I could see the little maniacal genius so eager to be friends with Amari. Her excitement about her inventions was also just so darn cute!
The others, while not taking centre stage, all had such vivid characterisations that it really wasn’t hard to envision them perfectly. Magnus, the thick-skinned teacher as a broad Scottish explorer type; Jayden as the boy trying not become another statistic; Lara as the skinny blonde mean-girl cheerleader; Dylan as the smart sensitive type, and Mr. Van Helsing as the type you want to stab repeatedly with a large pointy stick.
Even the villains were enticing and I could totally see why you’d chose to join their side. (I’m trying not to spoil anything by revealing who the villains were).
The plot trotted along at a steady pace and was neither too rushed or too boring. There was plenty of action interspersed with character growth and the descriptions were beautiful. I could imagine the world so vividly. The Bureau put me in mind of the Hub of Men in Black combined with the Zoo of Fantastic Beasts and that is a kind of aesthetic I am here for.
Also, last gushing point I promise, the LIFTS!!! Oh goodness the fact that the elevators had their own personalities was just icing on the cake. From the one called Whisper to the Lord of lifts and Lucy these simple additions were so delightful. I was a lift that speaks to me! (Unless it says ‘maximum weight achieved, get off.’)
All in all, I loved this book. It’s one I will be re-reading, lending to friends and definitely buying for my 13 libraries.
Buy it, read it, love it. You will not be disappointed.
(In case anyone is interested: My sister had her MRI’s which came back as negative on all markers except for this rare condition called M.O.G which is some sort of auto-immune flare-up. She needs to see a specialist neurologist in Nottingham in a few weeks. But she is out of hospital now but is under quarantine until next week so I haven’t been able to hug her as yet. She’s had to have two course of steroids which is dangerous for your bones but has given her some sight back in her eye. She might recover her sight fully, she might not. The M.O.G. might flare up again, it might not, we will know more in a few weeks.)