When I was a kid, I loved middle grade fantasy. It’s been years since a book in this genre/age group has sucked me into the degree that Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston did. This book was an exciting, amazing journey of a read for me with memorable characters, gorgeous world-building, and a plot full of important themes.
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The summary, from Amazon:
New York Times bestseller! Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black in this exhilarating debut middle grade fantasy, the first in a trilogy filled with #blackgirlmagic. Perfect for fans of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, the Percy Jackson series, and Nevermoor.
Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good.
So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.
Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny—especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.
Buy Amari and the Night Brothers here.
While initially Amari and the Night Brothers reminded me of other middle grade favorites in this genre, B. B. Alston’s book is very much its own story. The cover is stunning and the art at the start of each chapter was fun, but it was the story that really stole the show. Amari, her friends, her family, and her enemies are all complex and beautifully crafted. Amari is a heroine you can’t help but root for.
The world-building in this one is so creative. I know if I had read this as a kid, I would have thought of what career path I would want to follow at the summer camp and would have fallen in love with the personalities of the elevators. There’s also some humor that’s very all-ages and on-the-nose. I was laughing at loud at some points.
What really stands about about Amari versus other fantasy novels for this age group are the clear, solid themes. Alston draws a metaphor between the known world (the real world we live in) and the supernatural world and the way Amari, a Black girl, is treated in both -especially as compared to white children. The metaphor is 100% apparent and something Amari is aware of. No going back and claiming a vague similarity was there all along years later (as some famous authors have).
I genuinely didn’t see the final twist coming, and it made so much sense! I was really surprised and interested by what happened. It will be interesting to see how the next books play out. This was an absolutely phenomenal read and the start to what promises to be a truly excellent series. 5 stars!
Find out more about how I rate books here.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the first time since I was the target audience that a middle grade fantasy novel completely enthralled me. Fabulous characters – not just Amari, but the side characters too – and gorgeous world-building, not to mention excellent themes. I love that the author does not shy away from the real-world metaphors like others in this genre do. Amari recognizes the similarities between situations.
Book Club Questions
- How are Amari’s experiences at school similar to her experiences as a trainee? In what ways are they different?
- Did you predict the twist at the end? Were there any clues that could have helped the reader predict the ending?
- What was Elsie’s act of courage?
- Do you think Lara and Amari might become friends or allies?
- What career path would you like to pursue in the supernatural world?
Interested? Buy Amari and the Night Brothers.
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