Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh
Published by Delacorte Press
Published on: February 2 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
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For fans of The Maze Runner and The Fifth Wave, this debut YA novel from Hugo Award winner Will McIntosh pits four underprivileged teens against an evil billionaire in the race of a lifetime.
Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent. No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere.
When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.
There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.
David Sullivan lives in a version of our world where ability enhancing spheres just appeared out of the blue one day. Canary Yellow for perfect memory, Aquamarine for fast healing, Cranberry to become more attractive, etc.
As far as anyone can tell, once “burned” the gifts granted by the spheres last forever.
The problem is that not enough time has elapsed since their discovery to know for sure.
The other problem is that no one knows where they came from. God? Satan? Aliens? Magic? The theories are myriad, but there’s no evidence to back up any one claim.
Regardless of their origin, spheres have become more than a fad, but with the same kind of frenzied desperation to find them (they’re hidden), either to use or sell them, and when Sully discovered a brand new sphere, Cherry Red, he thought he’d found the answer to all his and his mother’s financial problems.
He sold it for 2.5 million dollars to Joe Holliday, regional kingpin of the sphere trade, but when the sphere didn’t do what Holliday expected, he voided payment, using the fine print to crush Sully’s dream under his heeled boot (b/c still short despite the several inches he gained from burning Lemon Yellow spheres), and making Sully famous for an entirely different, less enviable reason.
It’s easy to spot the Good Guy and the Bad Guy.
But was it easy b/c stereotypical characters or b/c startling similarities between Sully and Holliday and Ready Player One‘s Wade Watts and Sorrento?
Impoverished high school student who hunts spheres in all spare moments gets cheated by evil corporate stick figure who uses his resources to nefarious ends in his attempts to get ALL THE _______?
But without the cool gaming elements.
Later on, the story starts to diversify, but by that point it didn’t matter b/c bored. Maybe a little bit irritated, too . . .
You: Why irritated?
Me: B/c sooooooo YA.
You: Umm . . . it is YA.
Me: Yes, I know. But there’s YA, then there’s YA. This was YA.
You: WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!
It means a couple of seventeen year olds swapping “I love you”s after a few weeks, a few months, tops. It means angst for angst sake. Like when Sully’s bff decides to nurse a snit b/c he doesn’t get his way, even though if things had played out differently, they’d’ve ended up with NOTHING. Then when not-his-way works to his advantage, it’s instantly all good, b/c MONEY.
Then there are the heartfelt declarations:
“I thought the marbles were the best thing. It turns out you’re the best thing.”
But, really, this is the only example you need:
They’d left Mandy lying in the back of the Volvo with a broken leg, or hip, or something. God, Sully hoped she’d be all right.
In case you were still wondering, that is 100% pure YA, right there. Shit like that just doesn’t happen in books for grownups.
SO. This one goes in the Emma pile. (Sixteen-year-old) Baby Sister will LOVE it. If you have a teenager who likes to read, they’ll probably love it, too. But for those of you (like me) who have long since left high school behind, I’d skip it. Recommend with qualifications.