Title: Amari and the Night Brothers
Author: B.B. Alston
Series: Supernatural Investigations #1
Audience: Middle Grade
Narrators: Imani Parks
Length: 11 hours (416 pages)
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 18, 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.
This is a fantastic middle grade book about a secret supernatural world. Amari has always felt like an outcast as a poor, black girl attending a private school on a scholarship. When she is invited to a summer camp for supernatural agents on her missing brother’s recommendation, she thinks she may have finally found a place she can belong, but she is still ostracized because she has the powers of a magician, and magic is illegal.
This story is incredibly nuanced in its explorations of race and identity. Amari is an incredible character who just wants to prove herself and save her brother despite the numerous obstacles in her path. I also loved the supporting characters in this story; every character was fully developed, complicated, and real.
There was a major twist at the end that I should have seen coming, but I was totally taken by surprise because the writing and storytelling was so superb. I highly recommend this for young and mature readers alike, and I cannot wait for the next book to come out!