This book’s been panned by bloggers, and I hope Adam Silvera can jump back from this setback, especially since he’s planned two more books after this. However if he wants to smooth things over, he needs to fill some glaring potholes.
Taking place in New York (like other Silvera books), two brothers named Emil and Brighton idolize the Spell Walkers, a group devoted to annihilating specters, a group trying to steal the essence of magical creatures, including humans born with powers. Also, Brighton really wants to be high up on the food chain and wants to make himself famous. He has all the proper equipment to make high quality videos and conspiracy phenomena to blast on social media. Emil, however, just wants to quiet down with some guy and have a normal, civil life. But then Emil ends up gaining abilities after a confrontation; abilities so grand the Spell Walkers must put him under their protection and supervision, from those who’d try to hurt him or his brother, including a nasty bent politician gaining power.
I read Silvera’s History is All You Left Me a few years ago, and even though I found some of it flawed (I doubt, even in NYC, that any teenage boy could be completely comfortable announcing to a whole church choir their late boyfriend was the love of their life), I found it sweet and effective enough to give a glowing grade. If I want to be completely caught up, I’ll have to read More Happy Than Not and They Both Die At The End.
I didn’t not buy Brighton’s fame obsession. These days if you wanna be famous, you have to self-advertise and with growing competition, you sometimes have to be drastic to climb up the food chain. The problem is there’s so much mention and use of what we read books to escape from in our own rough lives, and represents it too straightforward in an unrealistic way. Social media has allowed terrific things to happen, but oftentimes in the world Emil & Brighton, well, Brighton, inhabits, it’s a cage match of us trying to bite each other’s throats out. And we don’t have to hear about Facebook or YouTube every 15 pages. It gets tiring how “modernized” this modern fantasy is.
And not only that, the spell walkers and all the fantastical stuff in this book take place in a world where this magic has history; it didn’t just appear a month or two ago. Why does that matter, you ask? I can’t help but believe in this world, social media would be a lot different. There’s probably different guidelines, different precautions, different history from the CEO’s, maybe a little magical coding only certain magicians can manipulate in the social media of this alternate universe. Twitter would maybe be called Roarer. But it’s not explored, attempting to be completely relatable but coming off as cut-and-paste plain. I’d at least expect another social media site known for posting specifically fantastical stuff to be around or something.
Emil’s story is much cleaner. He has your typical I’m-special moment with his feed getting an explosion of new followers, and as a result he can’t stay in his own house anymore and the world expects him to take on the devil and then impale the wrath of hell. But he just wants his old, boring life back, and he wants to find love but is too shy to ask any regular guy out.
The fantasy was fine, but as the ending was approaching there are so many battles and retreats and more battles and retreats. I would’ve preferred more preparation before a big knockout. There’s also a twist at the end, but it’s a twist I really did not buy. There’s a side-plot involving Ness that leaves a much better cliffhanger, but that can’t fix a book that could’ve benefitted from a polish. Maybe a reminder of the beauty of phoenixes.