I am on a middle grade roll recently and I only hope to continue the trend the rest of 2021! Here’s to a year of more middle grades! PLEASE hold me to this! Amari and the Night Brothers is a precious and action packed story about prejudice and magic. This book starts an #ownvoices trilogy of a magical competition between students in this summer school setting for a girl searching for her lost brother! Keep reading this book review to see my full thoughts!
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Amari and the Night Brothers is a multi-layered middle grade debut that not only tackles prejudice, but also how we can fight these expectations. Alston uses a fantasy lens of magicians whose presence is considered illegal, highly dangerous, and worthy of fear to talk about how we change people’s opinions. When we have power which inspires fear, which quickly turns to hatred, how can we move forward?
Amari is a striking heroine in a classicst system, someone who has to fight against racism in her world, and her Outsider status in the magical one. All while being determine her brother is alive and trying to find him when no one else will. Throughout the way, Amari has to figure out who is telling her the truth, and what she, as one person, can do. When people judge her, without knowing her, and want to take away her powers, she struggles to figure out how she can thrive in this magical system.
Amari and the Night Brothers is a fabulous series opener. I absolutely loved Amari as a heroine. Her dedication to her brother and her struggle to believe in herself, was not only endearing but also relatable. The magical system, especially the different departments, is captivating and I can’t wait for more! At the same time, Amari and the Night Brothers tackles the difficult struggle to figure out who to believe, especially when we are having trouble believing in ourselves.
Individual decisions, and actions, are important. We each have the choice about who we want to be. What misconceptions, which beliefs, we want to have. Not being seen for who we are, being excluded from a society without discussion, is a powerful motivator. What we choose to do with it, is our own. I am so invested in this trilogy and cannot wait for the next one! Find Amari and the Night Brothers on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.