Mercury Boys: review

This book....AH THIS BOOK! I cannot get over how amazing it was. My review is going to be off the rails, but I hope it conveys how much I loved this book!

MERCURY BOYS: A YA NOVEL arrives on August 3, 2021. Want to pre-order the book and win some free prizes, including a beautiful, handwrought, fair trade bookmark? Visit for details.

Or visit and learn about the book's plot and characters, as well as see the mysterious old photographs at the heart of the narrative.

My first young adult novel, Damselfly, is a classic island survival tale disrupted by the unexpected assertion of female control and an explosive reckoning over race and class.

Popular in middle and high schools across the country, Damselfly can be read as a stand-alone novel or in tandem with Lord of the Flies as a parallel text. The book grapples with modern issues that are relatable to today’s teens: bullying, racism, social media connectivity, and mental illness, among others. Resources for educators can be found at Complimentary signed bookplates and bookmarks available. Write to the author at to learn about class/author Q&A sessions via videoconferencing!

Previously I wrote novels for adults, including On Borrowed Wings, a historical drama set in early 20th century New Haven; Breathe the Sky, a fictionalized account of Amelia Earhart’s last days; and Death of a Circus, which Booklist calls “Richly textured [and] packed with glamour and grit.” I am the originator and editor of Mixed, an anthology of short stories on the multiracial experience, which was published to international acclaim by W.W. Norton and which is used in many college English classes.

My shorter works have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Week, the official magazine of The U.S. Department of State, Teen Voices, and numerous literary, arts, and poetry journals.

I'm a graduate of Yale and a Fellow at one of Yale's residential colleges. I'm currently working on several new books and writing projects.

History and the speculative collide with the modern world when a group of high school girls form a secret society after discovering they can communicate with boys from the past, in this powerful look at female desire, jealousy, and the shifting lines between friendship and rivalry.

After her life is upended by divorce and a cross-country move, 16-year-old Saskia Brown feels like an outsider at her new school—not only is she a transplant, she’s biracial in a population of mostly white students. One day while visiting her only friend at her part-time library job, Saskia encounters a vial of liquid mercury, then touches an old daguerreotype—the precursor of the modern-day photograph—and makes a startling discovery. She is somehow able to visit the man in the portrait: Robert Cornelius, a brilliant young inventor from the nineteenth century. The hitch: she can see him only in her dreams.

Saskia shares her revelation with some classmates, hoping to find connection and friendship among strangers. Under her guidance, the other girls steal portraits of young men from a local college's daguerreotype collection and try the dangerous experiment for themselves. Soon, they each form a bond with their own "Mercury Boy," from an injured Union soldier to a charming pickpocket in New York City.

At night, the girls visit the boys in their dreams. During the day, they hold clandestine meetings of their new secret society. At first, the Mercury Boys Club is a thrilling diversion from their troubled everyday lives, but it's not long before jealousy, violence, and secrets threaten everything the girls hold dear.

When you were a teenager, what was the most insane dream you've had involving a boy? I used to imagine my parents divorced and my crush's dad married my mom and that we lived together, fell in love and had a secret affair under our parent's noses. I know this sounds like the plot of a good YA book, but truly, this was where my mind was at sixteen. Mercury Boys reminded me of those daydreams. Feeling out of place in a new town after her parent's divorce, Saskia (an amazing name btw) discovers a way to time travel through a bit of liquid mercury and an old photograph called a daguerreotype. When she sleeps, she's in the same time period as the man in her photograph. When an acquaintance finds out about this, she and several other girls form a club called The Mercury Boys Club. But soon, things start to get out of hand, and Saskia's need to feel accepted begins to unravel around her. This book, everyone. This book. If my tiny synopsis did MERCURY BOYS any justice, you're sitting in front of your phone like wtf. Yes, the premise is unlike anything you'll ever read. With each girl, we're transported into their dreams and not all of them are as peachy as they expect. As time goes on, I started to open my eyes a bit more to these characters and what made them tick. They are the main aspect of this book that I loved. Saskia is an iceberg; there's so much under the surface that you don't see. Speaking of Saskia: she's real. She's going through a tough time at home and wants nothing more than to start over, find some new friends and enjoy summer. It's that need that drives her deeper into the club I mentioned above and she becomes blind to what's happening around her. All that matters is her Mercury Boy and real-life seems to fall by the wayside. Her character arc from start to finish is on point. There's a lot of sadness in this book from Saskia's rejection of her crush to her mother cheating and leaving her and her father to survive off of Healthy Choice frozen dinners. Anyone in her situation would seek something else. I don't know if the end state I concocted is correct, but what I drew from this story is that matter what, real-life will not go away. you cannot run from it. The grass is not always greener. Part of growing up is accepting change, adapting, and surviving and I think that is exactly what Saskia does by the last pages of this book. This is not just a five-star read, but also a read that I won't soon forget. Unique, exhilarating, magical are all words to describe it but none will do it justice. It's like looking at the Grand Canyon and trying to take a photo with your iPhone. Not happening. Just sit back and enjoy the view. :) A huge thanks to Books Forward and Soho Teen for the chance to review this book.


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