Middle Grade Monday features Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston. This fantasy series starter is the author's debut and getting a lot of well-deserved Newbery buzz.
Thirteen-year-old Amari Peters has had it. She's a scholarship student at a fancy prep school and hates it. She's not as smart as her perfect older brother, Quinton, and is bullied relentlessly for being a scholarship student as well as the fact that her brother is missing-implying he was into drugs. Amari and her single-mom don't believe that for a second, but even the police have stopped investigating his disappearance. Now, she's facing expulsion for fighting and grounded as well. Then, she receives a mysterious package containing a message from her brother.
She learns that he was working for the Bureau of Supernatural Investigation and was one of their top agents. He and his partner were working on a case and disappeared. The message was to be delivered to Amari should something happen to him, but Amari refuses to believe that he's dead. He has recommended her to attend summer camp at the bureau. She wants to attend so that she can investigate Quinton's disappearance herself. Once there, she discovers that she has a magical power-only it's illegal.
Normal-kid-who-discovers-they-are-magical is a trope that has been done before, but this one feels fresh. It's fast-paced, suspenseful, twisty and narrated by gritty, gutsy Amari, whom readers will instantly root for. The world-building is excellent. The diverse cast of characters are all intriguing and the mystery is excellently constructed, with plenty of suspects and red herrings. I can't wait for the next installment of the Supernatural Investigations series.