Friday, March 16, 2012

Fair Coin by EC Meyers

Publisher: Pyr

Date: March 27, 2012

Blurb (Goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disturbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day.

Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin—a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own.

The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted—if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.

I have to admit up front that I’m a sucker for stories like this. The combination of possible doppelgangers (one of my favorite things to toy around with in my own writing) and a magical thingamajig that grants wishes will draw me in almost as quickly as someone screaming “Free Cheeseburgers!”
But even trying to distance myself from that immediate attraction and take a broader look at what this book offers, I have to say that Fair Coin is a very good read. I finished it in a single afternoon, which has less to do with me reading fast than it does with me not stopping until the end. Because it was such a quick read, I didn’t get to do my usual process of stopping and taking notes as I read. So, while I’ll attempt to go into detail below, just rest assured that if you’re a fan of YA Science Fiction, particularly stories that have great plotting and pacing, then this IS your cup of tea. Drink up.
As I read this book, I was reminded of another YA book that I enjoyed a great deal, I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells. Now, the stories are NOT similar, but the pacing sure is. Things start building steam from the very beginning of the novel, and then right when you think you’ve got things under control, the book takes a definite turn from YA fiction into Sci-Fi territory.
And, just like Wells’ book, it’s a very good turn in deed. Ephraim spends the rest of the novel trying to solve the major problem that was presented at about the halfway point, and developing new relationships with the characters that are a part of that twist.

If I had to knock one thing about this book, it would probably be the ending. Now, I’m not saying that the end was too predictable or boring or poorly written. Rather, I felt that the wind-down of the book (the stuff that happens AFTER the final confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist) was too drawn out, and didn’t really fit with the breakneck pace of the previous chapters.

Now, I’m not necessarily the key demographic for this book, being a 28 year old man with two kids, but I’d imagine that if I was easily invested in the characters and their problems, then so would any teenager. I think that Meyers has hit all the right spots for this novel to succeed. Do I think it will be the next Hunger Games? No. But I do think it will be a very solid book for Pyr’s new lineup of YA books, and that it should probably be considered by any teen that loves Speculative Fiction in all its forms.

I loved
  • That it was very standalone. No huge cliffhanger ending that requires you to buy another book (I’m looking at you, Robison Wells).
  • Meyer’s writing. Simple, readable, engaging.
  • The pacing. This novel was a real gem of a read because I didn’t struggle with any “slow parts.”
  • The twist. I love a book where things are changing and there’s a big reveal that changes the shape of the novel. This definitely has all that.
I hated
  • It wasn't a terrible ending, it just seemed a little drawn-out for me compared to the breakneck pace of the final confrontation between protagonist and antagonist some fifteen pages back.
Understand that I really don’t like adding numbers to these things, but a lot of readers skip straight to this point (I may change this in the near future). So, I’m giving Fair Coin a 8.5/10. I’m recommending this one to all my teenage nieces and nephews (they are legion), and I don’t often do that with the YA books I read. I’m making an exception for this very solid, enjoyable read. Basically, if the blurb above grabs your attention, then the book’s plot, characters and pacing will keep it right through the end.

1 comment:

  1. So my only question is this: why did you call it Sci-Fi instead of Fantasy? A magical wish-granting coin doesn't sound very sci-fi-ish, unless it was made by aliens or something...

    Oh man, was it space monkeys? Did the space monkeys do this?