Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fair Coin - E.C. Myers


About the book

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.


250 pages (hardcover)
Published on: March 27, 2012
Published by: Pyr
Author’s webpage

This book was sent to me as a review copy by the publishers.

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I’m learning that, despite prior belief, I actually do enjoy young adult books. However, the caveat to that would be that I am rather particular about them. For example, I enjoy young adult books that toy with new ideas in such a way that the audience they target will learn while they read. Secondly, I realized that some young adult books are written by an adult who seems to be trying too hard to write on a young adult level. That really bothers me. I enjoy the more natural feeling young adult books (I'm not even sure if that makes sense). 

Thankfully, Fair Coin was one of those young adult books that hit all the spots.

Fair Coin tells the story of young Ephriam, a high school student who happens across a coin and directions telling him to make a wish and flip the coin. Ephriam does this and the plot starts moving. Ephriam himself is an incredibly believable high school student. He’s a ball of hormones and little forethought. Most of his wishes and actions are focused on girls, which, lets face it, is probably exactly what most high school males would wish if given a magic coin.

That’s part of the magic of Fair Coin. Myers writes an incredibly believable high school aged character. In fact, so believable that most readers will sympathize with some of the characters at one point or another, either because they remember acting/thinking like that or because they are currently at the same point in their own lives. Whatever your age range, Myers' characters are characters most people can completely relate to.

On the flip side of this is the fact that the characters never really delve below surface level. In fact, their emotional range remains rather shallow and the amount of time it takes for Ephriam to come to certain conclusions is nothing short of frustrating. While the characters are fun, and do fit into the story Myers tells, the lack of depth to them could potentially cause some readers to not fully enjoy or associate with the story or the characters in it.

Furthermore, most of the characters are rather stereotypical and black and white. The villain is the typical super-evil-and-uber-powerful guy. Ephriam is the typical geek from the typical dysfunctional family. The woman he is interested in is the typical hot librarian type. While this isn’t necessarily bad, the author didn’t really color outside the lines when working on the characters, and I did find their lack of unique was a slight disappointment.

Perhaps it’s the absence of emotional depth that causes me to feel as though some of the scenes, and reactions to events weren’t believable. For example, if someone close to Ephriam dies, he pretty much gets over it within a page and while these feelings might be talked about after he’s “over it,” it’s mostly just in passing and not really believable on the level it needed to be. Furthermore, the stereotypical character roles can serve to keep the reader unsurprised as to thoughts, actions and decisions made.

I have spent the past few paragraphs discussing negative points of the book, but let me flip the coin (har har, nice play on words) and discuss some of the positive points of the book.

The plot of Fair Coin is incredibly quick moving and action packed, often to the point where it seems as though things are constantly changing. Though this can cause the reader some confusion, I’m sure that’s some of what Myers is going after so the reader can feel a bit of what Ephriam feels. Furthermore, the experimental physics ideas that Myers toys with are really well done. The author does a great job at taking complex ideas and boiling them down enough so most people will be able to understand them. Furthermore, the use of these ideas does something which I think is incredible important for young adult books – they will make young adult readers wonder about endless possibilities and learn as they read.

In the end, Fair Coin is a nice balance of positive and negative aspects. While the plot is fast moving and action packed, the characterization lacked. Despite this, Fair Coin is a fast, fascinating read and while it might have some flaws, most readers will probably be able to overlook them in favor of the interesting, complex plot.

3/5 stars

3 comments:

  1. I’m learning that, despite prior belief, I actually do enjoy young adult books. However, the caveat to that would be that I am rather particular about them. For example, I enjoy young adult books that toy with new ideas in such a way that the audience they target will learn while they read.


    I think that is especially true of many of this "new crop" of YA books that have come out as of late.

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  2. Nice, honest review:) I'm about to crack this one open, and I've heard varying degrees of positives about it. I'm rather hard on young adult books, but that's only because in my, um, old age, it's very hard for me to relate to very young characters. I'm always on the lookout for crossover appeal, and "interesting, complex plot" sounds very promising!

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