Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston is the first book in a new middle grade fantasy series. Amari is from a low-income neighborhood and we meet her when she’s have discipline issues at her private school where she’s the scholarship kid. Amari’s older brother went missing a few months ago and no one seems to be looking, assuming he joined a gang or started dealing drugs. Then Amari finds a ticking suitcase in her closet that carries a secret message that changes everything. Amari enters the supernatural world where her brother is a household name. As she investigates his disappearance, she completes against legacy kids for her spot in the supernatural detective agency.
I don’t pick up a lot of middle grade books but after hearing everyone rave about this one, I couldn’t resist. It didn’t disappoint. I loved it and gave it 5 stars. It does everything right for a middle grade book and would be great for a good middle grade reader or a book for a parent and child to read together.
The creativity of this book is insane. The supernatural world is complex and you meet a lot of interesting creatures and see a lot of cool departments. This could get overwhelming for a young reader but the way it’s done is with Amari quickly seeing or visiting a lot of these things. This means you get to be delighted by a glimpse of something awesome but don’t really need to remember it. There are things you get to dig into more but a lot of it is mentioned to build the world and let your imagination go without requiring you to put the pieces together.
I loved that this was fun and fast-paced like a middle grade novel but still tackled some big issues like race. I thought this was really well done and made it really accessible without spoon-feeding it to the reader. It’s definitely there throughout but not the main point and cleverly done so that it won’t turn off kids.
I also really liked that wasn’t super predictable like a lot of middle grade reads. Some of the plot twists definitely surprised me and I was really invested in finding out where the story would go next. I think a lot of this comes from Amari who is an awesome character. She’s motivated, smart and courageous and has a good back story and motivation.
I’ll definitely be picking up the next book, this was great. Sadly it won’t come out until 2022.