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Supernatural Investigations #1

Amari and the Night Brothers

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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 magican 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.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published January 19, 2021

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B.B. Alston

7 books1,500 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,905 reviews
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
2,078 reviews5,040 followers
October 5, 2022
THIS FREAKING BOOK! OH MY GOSH! Hands down it's going to be in the top books of 2021 for me and we're only in January. This is the type of book I wish I had growing up!

Amari and the Night Brothers is a fantastical breathtakingly beautiful book. I wasn't sure what to expect going in. I knew that the book focused on a young girl by the name of Amari who was responsible for trying to find her missing brother. I knew that in her search she came across a magical world that fostered some sort of competition. Don't get me wrong, I was excited because there appeared to be an emphasis on Black girl magic. What ended up following those thoughts was an unbelievable experience.

This book is definitely more than a young girl looking for her brother. It's a book that places an emphasis on things such as friendship/companionship, perseverance, self-confidence, the Black experience, how fear is so easily related to hate. It’s been a very long time since I’ve read a middle grade book that truly captures my attention and pulls me in for an unforgettable ride. Amari is who I wish I had as a fictional character when I was growing up. Sure, there were plenty of fantasy series, but none where the main character looked like me and experienced the same types of things I experienced at that age. Amari is truly unforgettable and an ode to the Black girl magic of resilience. Even with her back against the wall, she never gave up the fight in looking of her brother. When her peers told her she wasn’t good enough because she was different she took their words and used them as a way to become even stronger. She learned that every battle she faced wasn’t a battle that needed to be fought alone and sometimes friends are there to remind us of the strength and courage that we have when we least expect it. I admired her character is so many different ways and I can’t wait for my daughter to get older and read this series.

Outside of the amazing character development, Alston created this AMAZING fantasy world with an ode to some myths and legends we’re familiar with. It’s complex in some ways, yet reminiscent of other fantasy books in other ways. Both the plot and the overall pacing of the book were fantastic. Every page was a joy to read and while I thought I had the entirety of the book figured out, Alston threw twist after twist at me that I didn’t see coming. It was a true testament to the way in which Alston was able to capture his reader’s attention and take them on a true adventure. This is going to be a middle grade series for the ages. Mark my words. I’m still finding it hard to believe that this is a debut book. While I’m sure people will reference HP because of feelings of nostalgia, this book doesn’t need it. It stands on its own and will make such a wide impact on its readers. I’m sad to have finished the book so quickly. I’m not sure how long I’ll have to wait until the next book, but I’ll be patiently and anxiously awaiting.
Profile Image for Gavin Hetherington.
673 reviews6,109 followers
December 26, 2022
Check out my spoiler-free interview with author B. B. Alston on YouTube: https://youtu.be/_oF5Ma0vRZs

A truly imaginative and explosive start to what promises to be an exciting new middle grade series to watch out for!

Amari has felt rather lost since the disappearance of her brother, but when she discovers a strange suitcase in his room, she has no idea how much bigger his disappearance - and the world around her - actually are. Enter the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, where Amari begins to train as a junior agent in a world where aliens, witches, dragons and way, way more exist.

This book has all the makings of a beloved adventure, perfect for kids and adults who want a fresh dose of action in their life. I loved the opening up of this incredible new world that feels rather real, and there are so many possibilities with this world that I am extremely excited for what's to come. Amari is a hugely likeable protagonist who has faced oppression all her life, so she jumps at the opportunity to discover new things, but even more so to discover what happened to her brother. Amari ends up making some close friends whom I love, and other characters are rather complex too. There are some brilliant twists and turns by the end of the book, setting us up for a brilliant sequel to come.

Plot-driven, action-packed, character-focused and just absolutely-brilliant.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,607 reviews10.7k followers
May 25, 2023
Amari and the Night Brothers is Middle Grade Fantasy at its finest. This book was so great, it should be celebrated!

Amari, the world, its dangers and the magic system were all fantastically imagined. I humbly request at least ten volumes for this series.

Is that too much to ask? I think if you pick this one up, you'd soon agree.

13-year old, Amari Peters, lives with her Mom in the Rosewood housing project. She has an older brother, Quinton, who is smart, fun and brave. He means a lot to Amari. He's her best friend, but Quinton has gone missing.

Amari doesn't understand why it isn't a bigger deal. Why it only seems to matter to her and her Mom? Why isn't it on the news? Why do the police act like if something happened to him, it was probably because he was up to no good?

Amari knows better. She doesn't care what they insinuate about him, Quinton is the best person she knows and she is going to find out what happened to him, whether others believe her, or not.

Upon arriving home after an especially trying day, Amari is surprised by a visitor who gives her a clue that may help; the answer to which lies in a briefcase hidden in Quinton's closet.

She can't believe what she finds. The Bureau of Supernatural Affairs? Is this for real? And Quinton has nominated her for a try-out?

While the prospect is scary, Amari knows this may be her best, perhaps her only chance, of getting to the bottom of her brother's disappearance. She has to give it a shot.

Thus begins Amari's introduction to the hidden supernatural world around her. She also discovers the hidden power within herself.

Under the guise of attending a 'leadership camp', Amari is able to stay at the Vanderbilt Hotel with the other Bureau trainees. There she is fully immersed in learning, training and competing. Did you hear that? Learning, training and competing.

It's a MAGIC SCHOOL trope! I know, it's called 'camp', but it's a magic school; only one of the best tropes ever created.

The Reader learns along with Amari the ins-and-outs of the world and magic system. The good guys, the bad guys, the history. It's all beautifully constructed and paced out.

I was totally engrossed in this while reading it. As first books in a series go, this is top notch. It definitely left me wanting more and I can't wait to see how Amari grows in future books.

If you are looking for that good old-fashioned, kid discovering they are actually part of a magical world, then learns about it, competes within it, and fights evil forces, kind of book, you NEED to pick this up. There's not even an option.

You can thank me later.
Profile Image for Tina Loves To Read.
2,529 reviews1 follower
August 5, 2022
This is a Middle Grade Fantasy, and this is the first book in the Supernatural Investigations series. This is the Middle Grade Monthly book for this March 2021, and I saw so many Book Tubes talking about this book. I just had to read this book, and I am so happy I did. This book give me, Men In Black vibes. I loved this book so much, and it was a cool and fun read. There was a big twist that I really did not see coming. I loved the characters in this book, and Amari was so much fun following. I also think the message in this book is so great for kids. The magic in this book was fun and easy to picture which is what I want for a middle grade book. This book was well written, and the pacing was perfect. I cannot wait for the second book in this series. I got the kindle edition of this book from my local library, but I have since ordered a copy of this book for my daughter.
Profile Image for Starlah.
393 reviews1,588 followers
July 16, 2021
This book is so much more than a young girl looking for her missing brother. It is a book about friendship and companionship, about perseverance and self-confidence. It is about the Black experience and how fear can so easily escalate to hate.

I was immediately captured by this story. Amari is a character I desperately wish I had when I was younger and am so happy that young Black kids have this now. She is the true definition of Black girl magic! I loved her. She has such resilience and strong convictions and perseverance. When those around her told her she would never be good enough because of her differences, she took those words and used them to become even stronger. I also loved how Amari learned that not every battle is one you have to fight alone. Friends are a great reminder that we are not alone, that we have strength and courage and together we can do anything.

As amazing as the characters are, the world-building of this was just as good! This is a true fantasy story! There are myths and legends that we are familiar with as well as new and innovative takes on classic fantasy characters and tropes we know. The plot and overall pacing of the book were fantastic as well! Every page kindled joy and continued to move the story along. It was never boring! There were also more plot twists in this book than some of the adult mystery/thrillers I've read! This is a book I can see becoming the next big thing and I desperately want it to! I cannot wait for the next installment in this!
Profile Image for Denise.
209 reviews44 followers
July 15, 2021
I really wanted to like this more than I did. I was very excited to get the chance to read this book early because I’ve lately been enjoying middle grade novels. There’s something so pure about these novels that sweep you away into an adventure, and Amari and the Night Brothers is a brand new diverse read with a fantastic cover. I was so on-board and ready for the adventure. The book had potential but I felt that major world-building and pacing issues held it back. I think the most frustrating part is they are somewhat easy fixes for the most part, and it would have let the core part of the novel shine so much brighter.

Let’s start with the positives. Amari is a 13-year-old girl who is inducted into the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and overall I think she is a strong protagonist. She is kind and compassionate, but also quick to anger. One of the main values Amari learns throughout this novel is that you should never lash out in violence, even if people are cruel, and I think that’s a great lesson. I also appreciated how Amari struggles with prejudice both inside and outside the Bureau. It’s always been a great strength of middle grade novels to reframe a character’s struggles in a new magical context. Outside of the Bureau Amari is judged for her race and her poverty; inside the Bureau she is judged for having magic. I think that this recontextualization is a great way for children to relate to these issues, and for children to work through these issues. Finally, while I may criticize novels aimed at an older audience for overusing the ‘chosen one’ narrative, I think it’s a great device in middle grade novels. It’s important for children to feel empowered and to feel like the hero of their own story, especially so for children who rarely see themselves represented as the hero, so I’m totally on board for Amari to be very special.

My biggest issue with this novel is the flimsy world-building. Right from the first chapter I started to have a sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to enjoy this book. The author constantly throws in fun quirky ideas until this novel is completely oversaturated with random content that doesn’t add to the world in any way. Worse, it undercuts elements of the world that should seem magical and special because as readers we’re exposed to dozens of random fantastical events a chapter, so how is anything supposed to stand out? In the first (or perhaps the second) chapter, Amari receives this illusion-message-thing that gives her a vision, and in this vision she experiences so many different scenarios from flying in a hot air balloon to travelling in an underwater train. These scenes have barely any descriptions because before you know it we are already off to our next quirky scenario. Now, I’m not saying that every fantastical detail needs to contribute to the story as a whole; there is always room for fun little details. But this whole book is built almost entirely on fun little details and a fundamentally flawed magic system (which I’ll get to later).

In this book Amari explores pretty much every area of the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs to the point that she explores multiple departments in one chapter. While I’ll return to the pacing later, I should mention now that this book moves at a breakneck pace. At one point Amari visits a room that I thought had a lot of potential; it was an astrology type room where the keeper can give prophecies or something. But this lasts maybe half a chapter before we’re off to a safari. As readers we can never settle into the world because it just never stops. Now I hesitate to make the following comparison for many reasons – from the fact that not everything needs to be compared to this series as well as the problematic views of author – but I need an example that most people know. So imagine if Harry Potter finds the Chamber of Secrets, explores the path under the Whomping Willow, takes a trip to Hogsmeade, pops over to the Ministry of Magic, and attends the Quidditch World Cup, all in the first book. How on earth could any of these places be memorable when they each appear for maybe one chapter, and then a million things happen in the same book???? For heavens sake Amari has the potential to be large series, why throw everything in at once???

I want to move on to one of the central aspects of this series, and why it doesn’t make any sense. When students join the Bureau there is a special ceremony.
“All of you possess a unique talent that we will enhance into a supernatural ability through an ancient gem gifted to us by the famed elf, Merlin. For instance, if you are someone who is constantly being told how good a listener you are, once you’ve touched the Crystal Ball, you might find yourself capable of hearing through walls.”

When Amari touches the ball it reveals she has magic, which apparently just means she can create illusions, and in the Bureau there is a huge prejudice against and fear of people who have innate magic. Now that doesn’t sound bad on its own, but here are a list of some of the other abilities students received:

Freakish Organization Skills
Unnatural Luck
A Medium
Mastermind Inventor
Physics-Defying Aim
Superhuman Athleticism
Read your mind for your intentions
Hands transform into solid metal

There are people who can read your mind without your consent, but the undefined magic gene is the issue. Do you see some of these abilities that are just considered normal??? Their prejudice against magic should at least be based on something coherent, but it makes no sense in this world. This talent-enhancing ceremony is so completely unnecessary and just creates huge contradictions when it comes to the central conflict. Literally these enhanced abilities make zero impact on the story as a whole and you could easily forget they exist. They just exist so that Amari can occasionally notice someone jumping really high in the hall or something. If they just had all the students be regular kids who maybe had a special gene that lets them see supernatural beings, then it would make sense why they fear someone who could use magic. But oh no we need to fill this book with random quirks. Who needs logic.

Now I want to touch on an aspect of the book that genuinely angers me. It may not have the biggest impact on the story, but sometimes it’s the small things that matter most. In the ceremony when the students touch the crystal, they are not just given enhanced abilities. Students are also evaluated on their potential and given a badge that embodies their rank. “This publication lists every job classification the Bureau has to offer. What positions you are allowed to pursue depends on both your potential and your ability … Badges represent you current potential – intelligence, bravery, curiosity, all those kinds of things.” And here are the list of badges:

Aluminum Foil
Notebook Paper

Now I want you to think on that for a moment. Imagine how many children already feel not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough. In the real world when you do poorly on a test it can be soul-crushing, but you can at least take comfort in several facts. Maybe you didn’t study hard enough, maybe you had a bad teacher, maybe you were feeling sick that day. You can plan to study harder or get a tutor or switch classes; a bad grade doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bad student. But this crystal ball isn’t a test for which students prepare. In one touch it examines your mind, your heart, your soul, and determines that you intrinsically have low potential. If that was me I’d never recover. I can’t even begin to express how much this infuriates me. When I was going through school I knew so many people – sadly it was mostly girls – who would just say I’m not a math person or I’m not a science person. They truly believed that there was something wrong with them and that would never change, so they didn’t bother to try. They wouldn’t do any of the math homework and then claim that their poor grade was just a result of their intrinsic ability. How many people have held themselves back because they didn’t think they were good enough?? It’s so depressing. Sure the president lady of the Bureau can say “While it’s true that badges are important in identifying those children we feel will be extraordinary additions to our ranks, don’t allow your initial badge to define your career with the Bureau. Hard work can improve your badge over time.” I would kindly like to tell her to f*** off. Imagine how insanely demoralizing it would be to walk around with a piece of cardboard pinned to your shirt (yes that’s literally how it works) displaying your ineptitude for all the world to see. What a disgusting system that is not critiqued in any way. Again it’s just a fun little quirk that is never referenced again in the story and only exists so that Amari can have an opal.

Oh god this review is already getting too long, so I’ll try to be brief on my last point. The pacing in the book is terrible. I don't even know how to express how quickly this book moves. The students at this Bureau have one summer ONE SUMMER to complete their training to become full-fledged agents. That’s insane not just on a logical level, but on a story level. The author crams three important trials into this one book, and then Amari is fully certified by the end. Again, don’t you want this to be a series???? Why can’t the readers learn and grow with Amari and appreciate her accomplishments over several books. We’ve barely been introduced to this world and already she’s an expert.

If you like this book then that’s great. It’s even better if you’re a kid who loves it. There are lots of positive reviews, but of course these are all written by adults so who knows what the kids think. I would never in a million years want anyone, especially a child, to ever feel ashamed or uncomfortable about the things they like. But I think children’s content deserves to be taken seriously and to be critiqued seriously. Too often I find creators taking the easy way out because something is targeted at children and they just want an easy buck, and that’s wrong and exploitative. I don’t think this author falls into that category at all but I do think that he should have put more thought into this world. There are plenty of middle grade series with rich, well-conceived world, and he shouldn’t have just dumped everything he thought was cool into one book. None of the world-building makes sense if you think about for longer than a few seconds. So many of these little quirks could have been removed to leave more room for character work. Again I think this story had potential, but unless he or his editors reign it in, it will continue to be a disjointed, oversaturated mess.

Thanks to Edelweiss for the arc.
Profile Image for Katie Colson.
675 reviews6,860 followers
July 29, 2021
Reading Vlog: https://youtu.be/NQKqgu3NpIU

✨What a freaking DELIGHT!✨

Also, let's have a moment for the cover. S T U N N I N G.

🧙🏾‍♀️ Amari Peters is the future.👑

Let's talk about WHIMSY! This is a bucket of laughs with fantastical imagery, loveable characters and a magical setting that feels like home almost immediately.

Not only that but B.B. Alston weaves in parallels to racism, classism and prejudice that middle grade usually lacks.

I will definitely be rereading this in the future and can't wait for the sequel.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
968 reviews849 followers
May 14, 2021
5 stars

A magical, amazing start to a fantasy series. I could not get enough of Amari and her adventures! A hidden magical society dedicated to keeping the magical beings of the world hidden from us? Yes. Perfect for us fans of Nevermoor, Keeper of the Lost Cities, and more.

Main character: ★★★★★
Magical world: ★★★★★
Plot/Pacing: ★★★★★
Setup for series: perfect, I am hooked!

Amari's older brother, Quinton Peters, has been missing for months. The police tell her and her mother that Quinton must have fallen in with "the bad crowd" and wasn't employed in any legal capacity. The color of his skin seems to be their only justification for their "solve." But Amari knows that can't be right—Quinton won all of his scholarships, attended a prestigious leadership summer camp, and shows up to her mother's low income apartment complex with money and presents all the time.

So when Quinton disappears, Amari vows to find out the truth. The real truth.

A ticking briefcase in Quinton's closet changes the game. All the sudden, Amari is faced with an unbelievable fact: Quinton worked for a hidden magical society. Wait, what?

With a note of recommendation from Quinton in Amari's pocket and some instructions for an interview, Amari shows up for the strangest thing in her life. Turns out Quinton pulled some strings to get Amari into the same "leadership camp" that he attended each summer. The camp that was actually a high-stakes magical training program. And Amari's been formally invited to tryout for her own place in the society.

Now down the rabbit hole, Amari quickly realizes that she's not the only one who loved Quinton and is looking for him—the entire Bureau of Supernatural Affairs is looking. Quinton was their star agent and he disappeared with his partner in a deadly chase.

If Amari can survive her summer tryouts and be selected by the Junior Agent training program, then she's one step closer to finding out the truth about what happened to her brother. But Quinton isn't the only Peters sibling with some standout talent. Just what, exactly, qualifies Amari to be trained in the magical arts?

No one, especially not Amari, is ready for the answer.

Y'ALL. This was such a great fantasy debut! I could not stop reading it—all of our favorite tropes were here, but given a fair few fresh twists. Magical schooling, deadly stakes, a mystery, secret coverups, magicians, magical beings, humor, and MORE. I can't describe all of the elements, but trust me, they're present.

Separate from the immediate appeal of the magical setup was Amari herself. Amari was a fantastic character to follow. Her heart, her love for her brother, and her experiences as a young Black girl realizing that the obstacles facing her in the real world do not magically disappear once she's been whisked away really hit me in the feels. She's a strong protagonist and she's here on a mission. But will she learn how to blossom and grow along the way? Agh. I cannot wait to grow with Amari in later installments. She's here to rock the world.

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Profile Image for Renee Godding.
640 reviews633 followers
June 27, 2021
5/5 stars

Every single year, like clockwork, a new middle-grade fantasy with magical themes is released, and immediately promoted to be “the new Harry Potter”. My response is always the same: a deep sigh and an exaggerated eyeroll to the offending publisher. This time however, was different. For the first time in my reviewing career, I’m going to call that comparison valid.
Now, please hold on to your chairs, for not only am I going to say “If you liked Harry Potter, you will like Amari and the Night Brothers”, I’m going to take it one step further. I genuinely think this book is better…

Amari, a young black girl, bullied for being from a “bad neighbourhood” has felt rather lost since the disappearance of her brother whom she adored. When she discovers a strange suitcase in his room, she has no idea how much bigger his disappearance - and the world around her - actually are. Enter the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, where Amari begins to train as a junior agent in a world where aliens, witches, dragons and way, way more exist.
I don’t say this lightly, but this book reminded me of my experience reading the first Harry Potter. The same adventure, whimsy and friendship, in an introduction into a phenomenal world of witches, wizards, and much more. The one difference being: I think Amari and the Ghost Brothers is actually better. Everything that J.K. Rowling did wrong, BB Alston does right: this book is diverse, inclusive and has a very timely message which it doesn’t shy away from. If you want to experience that “Harry Potter-feeling” that my generation had (blissfully unaware of all the insensitivities and opinions of Mrs. Rowling), but brought to a new, more diverse and inclusive generation: this series is for you.

I’ve already given this book and its Dutch translation as a gift to quite a few kids and pre-teens in my life, and have only heard back positive things. Can’t recommend this book enough: although it’s my first, I think this will be my middle-grade book of the year.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
669 reviews1,713 followers
December 26, 2020
*climbs to the very top of a mountain, inhales and screams*: I LOVE THIS BOOOOOOOK.
Amari and the Night Brothers has the potential to be the next big series - yes, it is really that good.

- Follows Amari, a young Black girl who gets swept into a hidden magical world when she receives a briefcase from her missing brother - and she gets nominated to be a trainee at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs.
- This book is just so much fun!!! I loved how imaginative and creative and visual this book was. This was the sort of book that ignites your imagination and love for reading - and I can absolutely seeing this book being the book that gets young people into reading.
- The story was amazing, and I just could not stop reading? Each time I picked up this book, I genuinely looked forward to where the author would take us next.
- The characters were wonderful - especially Amari. She was such a wonderful protagonist who isn't perfect but is absolutely trying to do the right thing when she gets caught in a sticky situation.
- I just loved that this was a magical school but mixed with elements of Men in Black. I loved the references to other magical works and mythologies and has paranormal elements too.
- I just. I just really loved this. I really need this to become a big thing so that it can be adapted into a film! It'd be perfect.

Trigger/content warning: mild fantasy violence
Profile Image for Ms. Woc Reader.
532 reviews710 followers
March 3, 2021
I'm still reeling from this book. The twists, yall!

Amari and the Night Brothers takes you on a journey from start to finish. She's such a relatable hero and this gives a twist on the chosen one trope in that she's the only one with her special powers but her peers aren't receptive.

This book had great world building. Sometimes in MG fantasy authors feel like they have to tell you more than show you the world. And they feel like they have to overexplain to the audience because they are younger. This doesn't do that. The Bureau felt like a real place and readers feel like they're going through this camp and discovering these supernatural beings alongside Amari. While at this camp she's also dealing with being an outsider because she doesn't come from one of the rich legacy families and has different abilities. And I liked how this book never shied away from or tried to condemn her background and change her into someone else.

I always look forward to friendships in MG fantasy and the friendships here were well written and fully realized. Amari and her roommate Elise bond over being outcasts and and work together to uncover the secrets behind Quinton's disappearance.

See full review
Profile Image for Tammie.
371 reviews605 followers
February 4, 2021
This book is the epitome of why I still read middle grade as an adult. I couldn't put this down and in all honesty, I can't see any other middle grade surpassing this as my favourite middle grade of 2021.

There isn't a single thing I didn't like about this book. I had no idea what the book was about before diving in, and really just picked it up because of the hype, but I'm so glad I went in blind. It was so much fun, so wholesome, and so incredibly empowering at the same time. The writing is also fantastic - I had no idea this was BB Alston's debut because this reads like a seasoned author's work.

Amari is easily one of my new favourite characters, not just in middle grade fiction, but in general. She's just so incredibly resilient, smart, and kind, and I was ready to fight anyone that dared hurt her in any way, shape, or form. On top of this, the friendship and sibling dynamics in this book were top notch.

The pacing in this book is also standout for me - Alston is really good at keeping you interested with a fast-paced plot, while not overwhelming you with what's happening. Some of the twists towards the end definitely caught me by surprise, and I loved it.

I have no doubt in my mind that this book and series will become one of the all time greats, in terms of middle grade. It's truly middle grade fantasy at its finest, and I think this is a book that a lot of young girls, especially Black girls, will be able to see themselves in, and that just makes my heart so happy.

If it wasn't clear already, 10/10 would recommend this book, regardless of age.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,535 reviews216 followers
May 29, 2021
4.5 Stars

Well that was such a wonderful YA fantasy fiction book!

The characters are so endearing and I loved the level of intrigue in the mystery element of the story. The world building was marvelous and the magical system was very interesting. I really hope this turns into more than a trilogy as there is the potential to create a new fantasy book series that people grow up with, where the characters age as Readers do throughout the publications. Fingers crossed this is the direction this is going. Thoroughly recommend for late middle school and early high school and of course anyone who loves fantasy fiction!
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,201 reviews3,672 followers
January 30, 2023
2023 re-read: It's still great

This was just as good as people said it would be. Amari and the Night Brothers is a fantastic start to a new middle grade fantasy series that centers a young Black girl and weaves together mythology and folktales ranging from vampires to Bigfoot in one very real supernatural world. It's a book about friendship, family, standing up for what's right, dealing with prejucide and bullying, privilege, and finding your inner strength.

Amari has been dealing with bullying in school, comes from a poor neighborhood that people stereotype as "bad", and doesn't know what has happened to her beloved older brother since his disappearance. But when she discovers a secret briefcase he left for her, she's introduced to a magical world she never knew existed. So begins a rich, fun, magical story that still feels very grounded in real issues young people face, especially children and teens of color. And I feel like maybe I should have, but I didn't see the twist at the end coming! Though looking back I can see the signs. Really loved this and look forward to reading more in the series.
Profile Image for Avada Kaddavra.
319 reviews55 followers
February 12, 2022
Ganz tolles Fantasybuch!
Ein Funke Magie, ein bisschen Freundschaft, etwas Verrat und ganz viel Spannung❤️❤️
Ich kann mich nur wiederholen:
Wo bleibt der Hype um dieses großartige Kinderbuch?!!!
Profile Image for Shawne.
388 reviews16 followers
March 1, 2021
When this book is good, it's very, very good.

I love so much about it, including
- Amari herself, a scrappy, brilliant lead character that doesn't exist enough in middle-grade fantasy. Tying her insecurities and her strengths to her experiences growing up as a Black kid in the projects is one of the very best things about this book.
- at its best, the world-building is glorious. BB Alston creates a dizzyingly magical world within our world, drawing back the veil to show us how humans have always lived cluelessly alongside all manner of supernatural beings and creatures
- stg I was won over once Amari set foot inside the Bureau of Supernatural Investigations within the Vanderbilt Hotel
- supporting characters are ace - I especially love Elsie, Magnus and Fiona
- the plot boasts quite a few twists, some of which work better than the others

But there are just as many things that I didn't entirely enjoy:
- Alston's writing borders on the clunky at times, which can make for occasionally tedious reading. It sometimes feels like he can't quite figure out how to make a plot point work, so he lingers between hiding and telegraphing it - which means you know it's coming while suspecting that you really shouldn't
- gotta think about that Van Helsing family dynamic a bit 🤨
- also - what exactly is the concept of magic here? Everyone seems to be fine with having a smidge of magic to activate supernatural abilities and whatnot, just... not when a magician does magical things? But aren't all the abilities (like turning your skin to steel) magic? A stronger, clearer framework as to what constitutes magic and magicians in this world would be welcome.
- the pacing of this book is peculiar. It feels like Alston drags out some parts of the book, and then whips dizzyingly through the last act just because he wants to get to the end. The writing sometimes skips a beat from section to section, not really bothering to link action and character in a way that makes sense. Choppy and a bit odd.
- I think the book could do with some judicious editing too. I read an ebook version I borrowed from my library, and spotted enough typos - including some missed words and a truly heinous 'you're' in place of 'your' - that makes me want to offer my proofreading services for an advance copy of the next book!!!

So - 3.5 stars. I love a lot about it, and want to see where Amari goes next. But it's very much a qualified kind of love.
Profile Image for Fanna.
992 reviews533 followers
June 12, 2021
➵ I loved this so so so much. From an excellently imaginative world full of supernatural beings to emotional responsiveness flooding through friendship, sibling love, and heartache, this middle-grade fantasy has become one of my absolute favourites. rtc.

↣ an early digital copy received via netgalley

16.06.2020 the cutest, prettiest, magical cover of this book has just been revealed and it's ummm, perfect.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,274 reviews1,198 followers
March 29, 2021

I cant even put into words just how much I love this book. I have no complaints. This book is flawless. Adult me loves this book and I know that 11 year old me would have been obsessed with it.

All the stars!


Profile Image for Mariah.
360 reviews29 followers
July 5, 2022
On paper Amari and the Night Brothers is right up my alley. I don't much like urban fantasy compared to 'regular' fantasy, but this essentially promised to take place in a different world entirely so that's close enough to get me excited. I love the idea of a hodge-podge of pure fantastical elements mixed into the paranormal. Fantasy tends to be on the opposite side of the spectrum to Paranormal despite the commonalities in the genres. A Black female protagonist is nothing to sneeze at either.

What I got was a big bowl of disappointment.

Let me start by admitting some of my discontent does stem from reading a similar book - Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crowe by Jessica Townsend - recently. That book is a five star and a half read. It was an instant favorite. Therefore, certain issues stood in stark relief by comparison.

It's hard not to when Nevermoor does almost everything correctly while this book is only doing competently at best. Nevertheless, the problem wasn't just that I happened to read, in my opinion, a superior book with a comparable concept close to this one. I love middle grade fantasy and I absolutely will read the same fundamental idea back to back no problem. I value originality but it's not the most important thing in the world. The book above all else simply needs to entertain me.

In fanfiction, there's a type of story involving reader inserts colloquially known as YN (ie your name). It's exactly what it sounds like: the author puts in a catch all character who the reader can project themselves onto. This isn't limited to fanfiction, of course, lots of young adult books have a veritable blank slate function as their protagonist. I bring up fanfiction here because the thing about fanfiction is that since it's an open source for writing you often get stories written by young people who are just starting out. Amari and the Night Brothers was extraordinarily reminiscent of a YN fic to me.

I don't mean that Amari and the Night Brothers is bad because it reads like fanfiction. I have read fanfiction better than many published books. I mean that this book merely fits this particular type of fanfiction to a tee. It's written well enough to be readable, it follows a plot relatively fine, the pacing is decent - yet there’s a kind of hollowness underpinning the whole thing due to the author’s inexperience. This isn't guaranteed for every YN fic, however, I'd wager a majority share these characteristics.

Alston is only as descriptive as absolutely necessary. There are no interesting metaphors or analogies or any form of language to make the world sparkle. His prose is uniform and lackluster. The same extends to the characters, who are largely non descript. I was unable to immerse myself because it was difficult to imagine anything with such perfunctory explanations. In YN fics this typically stems from the author being young so they don't have a frame of reference for a lot of things. The limited, cursory form of writing reflects the authors' lack of experience.

For example, when Amari's mother buys her a phone it's stated to be 'the newest version'. The newest version of what exactly? An iPhone? An Android? It doesn’t matter because Alston has fulfilled his primary directive of establishing a phone has been purchased. It seems small, but the type of phone a person gets is one of those little things that can reveal a lot about a character in a subtle way.

Let me break it down: The actual brand of phone her mother buys would tell the reader how much she’s splurged which in turn tells us how much of this is gift versus practicality. If it was a Firefly phone or an old Nokia brick that would fall more on the side of pragmatism. A Firefly specifically would demonstrate this particularly well as it has very limited capabilities compared to smartphones. Given its limitations it could be argued her mother is overprotective. If it was an iPhone 11 - an iPhone 11 vaguely aligns with the timeline - it would be more of a gift. The newer it is the bigger deal it is as it is a tangible representation of how important Amari getting into the summer camp is to her mother. They don’t have much money yet her mother being willing to buy a phone that costs say $500 would show how much her mother loves her; she would pay a lot of money for a popular phone over one that is merely serviceable. This is good for the narrative as it places pressure on Amari to do well as, from her point of view, her mother is investing money they do not have in this opportunity, thus the stakes are raised.

Branching off that last point, there is a severe lack of tension or suspense.

Amari never suffers any real setbacks. Going back to my point about YN fics, a large part of YN fics is that everything slides into place with little effort on their part. YN's status as the greatest cannot be challenged too much or else it breaks the immersion. These stories are in essence wish fulfillment. As such very few want to read about YN suffering too much or realistically. YN basically can do whatever YN wants and everybody loves them. People will bend over backwards to accommodate YN, ignoring how strange they may be acting or how little time has passed since they’ve met YN. Those who don’t worship the ground YN walks on are horrible people of little concern. Under these parameters Alston does not have to prove Amari is capable in-text, instead he can merely warp the world around her to force everything in her favor.

As per the synopsis Amari is given an illegal supernatural ability. This, of course, puts the whole Bureau into a tizzy. Lucky for Amari there’s a woman whose supernatural ability is that she can scan someone to read their intentions.

At 24% into the book this shoots her quest to find her brother in the foot at the starting line. Amari blatantly flaunts the fact that she’s at the camp solely to find her brother. This makes absolutely no sense for Amari to do. Why would she tell these higher-ups in a meeting where they’re trying to decide whether or not to wipe her memory that she’s planning on causing problems by sniffing around? She can’t hide it because of the woman who can read intentions, but then the question becomes why would Alston write in an ability like that in the first place? Where is the fun in her sneaking around when her intentions are made so transparent from the get go? I suppose it doesn’t matter either way since she’s allowed to stay at camp regardless.

Following the train of thought, her permission to stay at camp hinges on her being on her best behavior. It is made abundantly clear that people will be watching her. Amari uses her powers uninhibitedly in front of a large group of people twice with no direct consequences. Considering how terrified the Bureau is of her, I’m confused why she was not immediately shipped home. Or at the very least I’m confused why people expressly watching her is a vague threat rather than a concrete obstacle she needs to learn how to avoid.

The Bureau has a man detained who is related to her brothers’ disappearance. Amari does not even think for one second of coming up with a plan to sneak in to see him. Instead she directly ASKS to see him. Obviously, they say no. Only for Alston to, a few paragraphs later, backtrack and arrange it so they suddenly need her to do so. Then she leverages this position to get intel. Thus, she did not have to exert herself whatsoever.

Amari receives a small lead. It requires her to meet a man who is the head of a different part of the Bureau. She just makes an appointment to see him and is prepared to wait a few days. No clever plan to try to see him sooner or force her way in. I don’t care if it’s unsuccessful, I care that she never even tries. What kind of investigator never pursues a lead or bends a rule or two? Especially as a kid who is supposedly frantic to find her brother. The lack of initiative is infuriating.

Amari has to get her phone updated and Elsie sees a private message Amari was keeping secret. Amari immediately caves and tells her about it. Again - and I cannot stress this enough - I don't care if Elsie would know she's lying, what I care about is that Amari doesn't try. Amari expending a modicum of effort rather than essentially relying on luck would do wonders for her character. Going in this direction means leaving absolutely no room for friction to potentially take advantage of for interesting interactions later on.

Without fail, any time Alston could stir up drama or up the ante he actively chooses to smother it before it can spark.

As soon as Amari comes up against a scrape it either swiftly rectifies itself so she doesn’t have to lift a finger or she simply asks. It makes for an utterly uninteresting mystery to solve when there are no clever puzzles or perplexing conundrums or startling twists.

At the start of try-outs the teacher starts calling people out. Her gruff demeanor is to let the kids know this program isn’t any walk in the park. She embarrasses one kid by dressing her down for being a glory hound then moves onto Amari. It’s a decent if not predictable set-up for Amari to stand up for herself in front of everyone to make it clear she has a backbone. It’s fairly normal until the teacher precedes to have a private conversation with her in front of the whole class .

Amari says she lowers her voice so no one else can hear and that would be acceptable if it was one quick line to let her know she is secretly on Amari’s side. But, no she actually gives her a whole speech that I’m expected to believe a class full of kids is going to disregard. Not to mention the fact that a teacher would never stop a class dead like this to have a serious discussion with a kid. If it’s that serious she would have had her stay afterwards to tell her for this exact reason. It could be a long talk and, if this was the real world, potentially detrimental since other kids could hear personal info.

This slides neatly into my YN analogy: the teacher pointedly speaking to Amari in this manner is a totally illogical sequence of events unfolding like it’s completely normal all so YN (Amari) can receive an unnecessary pep talk. YN getting praised is the priority moreso than a realistic depiction of a situation because the purpose, unconsciously or not, is to make the reader feel good about themselves via YN. As such the teacher taking special time to uplift her is presented emotionally first, practically second. The reader is not meant to question how much this stalls the class.

The worldbuilding is poor. There is a vibrant supernatural world at Amari’s fingertips yet we spend the entire time trapped in the Bureau and nearly all of Amari’s contact is with other humans. When she does meet another supernatural creature it’s fleeting. I don’t understand why there aren’t more supernatural creature agents. I find it super hard to believe that a community would allow itself to be governed entirely by a non magical police force.

The universe is how it is because Alston’s writing is primarily based on utility. Amari’s classes sound super cool based on the titles, but we only attend one or two. The rest wouldn’t move the plot along so they’re glossed over. I can count on one hand the amount of contributory characters Amari comes face to face with and all are inchoate because their presence is dictated entirely by how well they can serve the overarching plot.

Her roommate Elsie, a weredragon, is the only non-human she is exposed to for any substantial length of time. Not that this factors into the story at all. Part of Elsie’s arc is that she can’t turn into a dragon for understandable character reasons I don’t want to spoil. But, are there really no cool attributes she could have been given to differentiate her a little bit? Just for fun? She's functionally a human. The only thing that stands out is that she can read moods which I hate due to it being a shortcut to avoid the two characters needing to have real communication.

Alston tries to act as if the two are such close friends, but it’s hard not to be when one of the characters has such a huge advantage. It doesn't allow for the friendship to develop organically. It’s actually a faux intimacy to distract from the fact that Elsie is barely a character. She is little more than an encouraging block of wood for Amari to occasionally lean on. When she talks about her classes - which are completely different from Amari’s since she is on a different track - Alston avoids building the environment so it’s ignored. Unlike Amari, she’s plugged into the supernatural world but again we never go anywhere so this doesn’t mean anything.

There’s even an occasion where Alston seems to forget this. Amari buys a supernatural magazine that she doesn’t know how to open. Elsie is also perplexed. Except that doesn’t make any sense because if Elsie has been raised in this culture she should know how to open a magazine.

Plus, I find it unrealistic that Amari never gets annoyed that Elsie feels comfortable bringing up her emotions before Amari has even parsed them out yet. Elsie might be able to see the emotion but that’s not the same thing as actually interpreting it. Personally, it would worsen some emotions for me to be laid so bare at a moment’s notice. Amari is way too insecure to be vibing like it’s nothing from day one.

The book falls apart at the very end. The root of the big conflict is that Amari’s illegal power makes her a bad person because all the people who had her power that came before her used it for evil. Amari needs to make a big decision that reflects on her feelings about her illegal power.

Amari was apparently proving peoples’ misconceptions about people with her illegal power wrong. However, as I’ve reiterated several times: Amari goes nowhere, does nothing and talks to no one. So how is she showing anyone anything? If Amari is meant to show the populace just by living her best life that would be fine. She doesn’t actually owe the world anything. If the lesson in the end was you can’t make anyone see what they don’t want to, I wouldn’t be complaining. The problem is that that’s not what the goal is. The goal is to inspire others to reconsider their perspective.

Alston makes it very clear that the final battle is supposed to be a culmination of Amari’s endeavors for the duration. Unfortunately, there are only two instances where Amari embodies this idea. She makes a grand gesture as her final test to be admitted into the Bureau as a junior agent. Additionally, there is a strawman introduced right before the final test for Amari to convert to her cause. Note: both of the above events happen after the 70% mark.

The reason why this does not work is two-fold.

First off, Amari's illegal power is related to a serious prejudice in the supernatural world. After it's established that everyone hates her it's left at that - paper thin caricatures who harrumph a lot when showcased but not relevant enough to have an impact. Amari barely explores what her power can do for her or the history behind it. She gets rightfully upset that other people treat her poorly but this doesn't result in a lot of explicit bullying or misbehavior from kids or adults. Most of it is ignoring her unless it's time for specific incidents to segue into the next big event. This hands off approach to her treatment not only undermines the significance of Amari's struggles, it means that Amari has no opportunities to challenge their ignorance.

Second, Amari is a stagnant character. She never lies. She never cuts corners. She never cheats. When the idea of misusing her power comes up she recoils immediately thereby closing the door on it before it begins. She has one minor hiccup that feels manufactured because of how overblown the incident is. Her personal failing is insecurity which would be relatable - and admittedly is understandable given the circumstances - if it was not easily fixed through a single conversation with a minor character.

I don't mind a kid that does the right thing all the time. As a former rule following kid myself I love a goodie two shoes more than I probably should. It's just that this type of character has no business being in a story where previously conceived notions need to be challenged if she's too straitlaced to do the challenging. There are so many unjust assumptions and policies regarding her power. It is ridiculous that Amari never once has a crisis of faith in regards to her belief in this world. She never considers turning her back on them. She never stops to think that maybe the system is wrong. She never does her own research into the shadowy past. In short, she never develops her own independent idea of what it means to participate in this society.

Therefore, the decision she has to make is fundamentally flawed because I do not see a difficult choice for two thoroughly explored, tempting factions Amari is torn between. Amari does not falter in her loyalty. The 'bad side' never stands a chance. There is only an argument to be made in favor of the Bureau by default not by design. I was not convinced that Amari's decision was tough for her as there wasn't a solid foundation laid beforehand. It’s not like Alston didn’t try, but his attempts were half-hearted at best.

It's a predictable dispute I’ve seen done well many a time before fumbled in this case by execution. Off the top of my head I can count several books that have a similar concept or themes implemented better than this one - like the aforementioned Nevermoor.

At the conclusion, an underground group involving Amari’s power is introduced as a tease for the next book. I believe this was a huge mistake as it was desperately needed to set the stage in this book.

On a favorable note, I appreciate how Alston made Amari’s race explicitly linked to her feelings of alienation. Being Black often defines your venture into a new space before you’ve even opened your mouth. A mere glance at your skin has already caused you to be written off by a not insignificant number of people. Alston does a decent job of tracing Amari’s isolation in the ordinary outside world to that of the supernatural ostracization. However, I also will say it is usually extremely on the nose.

Debuts can be hit or miss, and this falls further under miss. It’s underdeveloped, it’s boring, and it’s generic. It’s written like one of the better options on Wattpad, but that is not saying much. I don’t need every story to be brand spankin’ new or perfect. What I do need is for this story to be the best version of the story it’s trying to tell - this is not that. I’m not going to write Alston off here because I think he shows some promise. I’ll be reading the next book one way or the other so hopefully I’m not wrong to have faith.
Profile Image for ˗ˏˋ lia ˎˊ˗.
306 reviews388 followers
November 27, 2022
“people are going to form opinions and say nasty things about you based on nothing more than what you are.”

alright, so… everyone and their mother on booktube had read this and absolutely adored it, so the stakes were a bit high i guess. and i am happy to report that literally all of them were so right and i loved this story more than i thought was possible.

i do not read middle grade often at all, but this made me think that i should get into it more!! it was such a fun read and despite being 400+ pages, it was super quick to get through as well. that also might have something to do with this book being a full package deal: the pacing was great in the entirety of the story, so you never felt bored at all. the writing was truly amazing and the characters were so much fun to read about.

the plot constantly took me by surprise because, before picking this up, i didn’t really know what it was about at all. the only information i had beforehand was that amari was looking for her brother, but this story ended up being so much more for me personally! it’s a story about finding you own place and doing what you believe in despite the hardships along the way. i genuinely can’t wait to follow along amari’s side in upcoming stories! definitely one of my favorites of this year already!

→ 5 stars
Profile Image for Mara.
1,635 reviews3,883 followers
November 22, 2021
My biggest take away is that BB Alston has a true talent for writing hateable 12 year olds - the number of middle schoolers I hated in this book is genuinely impressive 😹. All around, this was so charming and I really enjoyed how the book used its fantasy elements to explore classism and elitism. I think pacing this felt a little herky jerky (to be expected in a debut), but overall, loved the characters, world, & themes, and I'm looking forward to the next entry!
Profile Image for Lynette Noni.
Author 23 books4,914 followers
February 14, 2021
Thoroughly enjoyable! Like a mix of HP, Nevermoor, and Men in Black.
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