Mercury Boys

- Chandra Prasad

Goodreads Book Blurb:

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.

Genres:

My Review:

***Thanks to NetGalley and Soho Teen for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

enjoyable/easy to read:
3/5
2.5 stars

I’m not sure what I expected from Mercury Boys. When you start a book about teenage girls time travelling with mercury and daguerreotypes, you have to go in with an open mind; especially when it turns out that they’re time travelling to date boys in the past. With such an outrageous proposition, I thought something would have to ground this narrative to bring it into the real world. But that was, unfortunately, not the case.

The root of the problem with Mercury Boys is there are too many things going on simultaneously. Is this a book about divorce and depression? Or bullying and peer pressure? Time travel and love? Addiction and abuse? Honesty and sexual identity? Because trying to be all of these things at once is too confusing, especially from only one perspective. It left all the characters to become extreme caricatures of the roles they had to play to keep everything moving in the right direction. With no range of emotion, there was no growth or development – everyone just stayed in their own lane, becoming worse versions of themselves. It made most of the characters fairly unlikable and the whole story even more unbelievable than the synopsis would suggest.

I reckon if this hadn’t been an ARC, I’d probably round down to two stars. I’m optimistically rounding up to account for potential changes made before publishing. With some editing, the multiple plot points could have a more specific focus allowing for a more consistent narrative and enjoyable read.

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