by B. B. Alston;
An Adventure Book Review by Erin the Cat Princess©
Hello, and welcome to my Saturday Book Review featuring adventures in Middle-Grade Fiction, hosted by yours truly.
This week we thought we’d delve into the world of the supernatural.
Nope, Mrs H hasn’t been at the Sanatogen XXX Strong Senior Citizens blend, cut with neat sherry. Instead, she bought home a rather glitzy covered new book for us called ‘AMARI and the NIGHT BROTHERS’.
But first, a big thank you to the global readers of our online news last week, who expressed concern at the mini crimewave hitting our dear and generally ordinary (ish) village of UMM (Upper Much-Mousing).
The latest news from PC Beatworn in The Pied Sparrow Inn, is that Sid Warrant of CSI Much Deeping-Hollow has passed the matter of the missing spectacles to East Lambtonshire Zoo.
Why ever did they do that, I hear the First Lady ask? Well, following a lead from a hush-hush American Law Enforcement agency, who would neither confirm nor deny avidly reading the blog each week, the perps were identified. Apparently, and purely accidentally, the satellite had been drawn to the area in recent weeks due to the large amount of soap sudds emanating from Mrs Singh’s sheep powered car wash being visible from space! They thought they had been monitoring some ecological disaster. Had they come to me first, I’d have happily pointed them to the remnants of the Great UMM Bake-Off contest, which, months later, remain undecomposed in the local cafe!
Anyways, the satellite team spotted two well know villains that had escaped the zoo whilst on a foreign exchange visit. The two, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are Racoon X and Racoon Y.
Residents of the village are asked to look out for two strangers with American accents, and wearing horn-rim glasses! Seems a bit vague to me, but then, I’m just a cat!
OK, enough of the crime news, let’s get on with the fun stuff!
AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS, by B. B. ALSTON
Published by VARIOUS IMPRINTS OF Harper Collins Publishers.
Cover artwork by Brittany Jackson
Age group: 8 – 12 and upwards!
Any cats in the story? Sorry, none that I can recall.
Paperback ISBN: 978 – 1 – 4052 – 9819 – 3
Cover price for Paperback £7.99 (or cheaper)
Amari Peters is an early teen girl who has won a scholarship to a great school. The trouble is, she is from the wrong side of the tracks. But she is following on in the footsteps of her elder brother, Quinton, who was brilliant and won the same scholarship and made good. He landed a fantastic job that took him away a lot travelling. Amari thought he was some sort of spy. Quinton would smirk and say, “Your wrong, but you’re not totally wrong”.
Amari had lived with her mother and brother since their father effectively disowned them and left. He even denied being Amari’s father. That isn’t an easy thing to deal with for a kid, especially when it is overheard coming straight from the dad’s mouth.
Things take a turn for the worse when Quinton vanishes. He said he had a job and was paid well, and always sent money home from wherever he was working. But the police can’t find any record of him ever being employed or having paid any tax, anywhere. After some time, they call a halt to the investigation. What more can they do but suspect he had been into something terrible, mixed with the wrong kind and paid the price. After all, that’s what happens to many black kids, right?
Wrong! Not Quinton, and Amari knows that. And she knows he’s out there somewhere.
The kids at the new school only see Amari as a black kid from a poor home, and they make life rough. Amari is tough, she had to be, but she gets suspended when she gets pushed too far and pushes another student over. The result is Amari loses her scholarship and any chance to get anywhere else……
But then, a suitcase from Quinton is delivered by a mysterious courier. Well, he’d already been into Amari’s home and left it in Quinton’s wardrobe but just wanted a signature. The case contains a “Broaden Your Horizons.” kit. When the designated opening hour arrives, midnight after the last day of term, Amari opens the case. Donning the spectacles she finds within, she hears and sees Quinton. But her mother cant, which is rather handy as what happens next, takes Amari on a unique sailing ship that flies out over the ocean. Here her brother, who isn’t really there but in what they call a waking dream, shows her the worlds and activity beneath the waves – the International Railways of Atlantis. It transpires Quinton worked for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, and went on missions worldwide. He was one of their top two agents. That is until the two went missing. The case, it turns out, was to be passed on to Amari if he was declared missing . . . or dead.
Also, in this case, is an invite for Amari to try out to be a Junior Agent at the Bureau. The thing is, can she stand the shame of wearing the horrendously weird suit of clothes that is in the case as she travels to the Bureau’s secret headquarters in Atlanta, GA.
All of what I have just described is the warm-up to a rather fun new world that opens up when Amari steps in the Bureau’s elevator and presses the Basement button 26 times . . .
So, what did we think?
This is a debut book by American author B. B. Alston.
We finished this book quite quickly, under a week. It isn’t short either, or large print. This is a great sign for us as it means two things. 1) we liked it a lot. It is different. If we didn’t like it, we wouldn’t be reviewing it as we’d have stopped reading. 2) The book’s pace is good and engages us to read on and on. We did however struggle with some of the dialogue, but I’m guessing this is just down to local dialect/lingo used for the characters. Mrs H isn’t exactly hip and down with the kids, well, not unless she’s playing marbles!
I would love to have seen more pictures in this. A brilliant cover but sparse or no chapter title images seem to be the way with these longer books. But don’t let that put you off, as the reading was the thing in this case.
Think of this book as discovering that the sum of three flavours of ice cream/candy can create something as good, and in its own way, better than the individual parts.
Mrs H and I both said that this adventure was reminiscent of elements of Men in Black (the first movie, which is our favourite), Nevermore (the brilliant book series of the adventures of Morrigan Crow), and Harry Potter.
The flavour of this adventure is: the essence of sweet friendship found, the sourness of betrayal, a dark raspberry ripple of the evil magical villains and monsters (provided by the Night Brothers in the title), and the tongue tingle of sharpness is the battling the odds.
All of which is a long, but I think justified, way of saying this was a refreshing feast of imaginative writing.
I shall say no more. There are a veritable plethora of things to enjoy as the adventure takes off, and descends, and to say more would spoil it. I will add, though, that this would make a great film, just like Men In Black.
So . . . .
So, would we recommend Amari? I’d say yes. It is a safe and good buy for adults or younger readers. Indeed it works well for elderly housekeepers who may, or may not, have had too much sherry whilst making the Christmas pudding!
The great news is, if you enjoy this book, and there is a lot to enjoy, there is another book in the series heading our way in hardback in April 2022.
Unfortunately, for the paperback, we will have to wait until 5 January 2023. I do think a year gap between the two is unnecessary. For those who are necessarily cost-conscious, including ourselves, this is a bit mean. It does, however, seem to be the way the industry works these days. But if someone sends us a copy, we will, of course, review it for you.
Want to buy a copy?
To add some Supernatural Detection to your own briefcase, you don’t need to take an elevator, just head to your local independent bookshop.
Harper Collins Chidrens web page can be found HERE. https://www.harpercollins.com/blogs/authors/b-b-alston
If any authors, publishers or agents, wish us to review their books, please get in touch. Details are listed on our book review page.