Mercury Boys

Soho Teen. Aug. 2021. 360p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781641292658.
Gr 9 Up–A secret society shifts from exciting to toxic in this dark tale with hints of magic. Saskia Brown has recently moved and is trying to figure out her place at her new school. When visiting her only friend Lila at her job in an archive, Saskia gets to see and touch some old items related to photography, including a daguerreotype and some liquid mercury. This has surprising consequences: Saskia can now visit and interact with the person from the daguerreotype, an inventor from the 1800s. But this only happens in her dreams. Saskia shares this strange experience with some potential new friends, and soon a small group of girls has formed a secret society with strict rules regarding their “forever boyfriends,” the people from the daguerreotypes they’ve selected. As the teens become more invested in their visits and the society, rules that seemed innocuous become catalysts for dangerous punishments, and an idea that seemed magical and exciting will have lasting consequences. This story is layered and unique; the surface-level concepts of time travel and secret societies will draw readers in, but the jealousy and desire for revenge that fuel the secret society add depth and unexpected elements to the plot. Saskia is biracial (half white, half Black, of Ghanaian descent). The realities of racism are woven effortlessly into Saskia’s present-day experiences and visits to the past. Although the ending feels a bit anticlimactic, the novel blends history, romance, friendship, and a touch of magic into a compelling story.
VERDICT Recommended for collections serving teens.

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