Goodreads: Amari and the Night Brothers
Series: Supernatural Investigations #1
Published: January 2021
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 magician 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.
I have to start by saying that if you describe the general plot of Amari and the Night Brothers, it sounds very much like Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor: A girl with a less-than-great home life suddenly finds herself at a magical organization where she needs to compete for a spot by showing off her magical talent, except her magical talent is extremely rare and also illegal, and the only known person with the same talent is an evil outlaw who is interested in wooing her to his side. However, the beauty of books is, of course, in their detail, and Amari differentiates itself with spunky, determined protagonist Amari herself, her quest for her missing big brother whom she adores, and a quirky world of magic and magical creatures that is lurking just beneath our own. Overall, it was a joy to read.
Amari won my heart from the beginning of the story with her love for her big brother and her firm belief he’s still alive — and also that he was involved in something wonderful, not the drug deals the authorities keep insinuating because of the color of his skin. Amari also has a lot of keen observations about the world and her place in it, and the way people treat her because of her class and her race, but she’s not letting anyone’s prejudice make her doubt herself or stop her from trying to achieve her dreams. The reader doesn’t know what she’ll accomplish when the book opens, but they will be confident it will be great because of her heart and her determination.
The gradual reveal of the world of magic also drew me in. The story is quirky at times, in a way I don’t always find amusing because quirky isn’t always my thing, but I have no doubt it will appeal to much of the intended audience. And while I also thought that there seemed to be A LOT going on in the magical world, and at times it seems as if every magical creature and type of magic has been tossed into the book for good measure, this makes for some excitement and probably wouldn’t bother a twelve-year-old.
A fast-paced plot kept me turning the pages, as the story follows the two threads of Amari’s quest to figure out what happened to her brother and to find her own place in the new world of magic she has discovered. I was rooting for her at every turn, and I think a lot of other readers will, too, if they give this book a chance.