Every once in a while, that really good book comes along; it’s the one book you just can’t seem to tear yourself apart from or put down long enough to get anything else done. For me, that book is Fair Coin by EC Myer, a fantastic up and coming Young Adult writer. Myer’s Fair Coin follows the story of teenager Ephraim Scott, who comes home on a seemingly mundane day to discover his alcoholic mother barely alive on the kitchen floor; apparently she had tried to commit suicide after discovering that Ephraim had died earlier in the day when he got hit by a bus-the bodies head got lobbed off so there was no way to identify for sure, but the corpse did have Ephraim’s wallet, Library card and other credentials that could be used to identify him. Among the mystery body’s possessions was a particularly odd, but otherwise normal coin, which Ephraim didn’t recognize, but then a mysterious note in his locker tells him to flip the coin and make a wish and it will come true. Ephraim indulges this note and next thing you know, his formerly alcoholic mother is now a model parent and citizen. Another flip, and Jena Kim-the girl he has unrequitedly liked since the 2nd Grade- is now hopelessly infatuated with him. Yet another flip and his best friend Nathan can now stand up to Michael Gulap, the school bully who has been torturing him for years on end. Everything seems to be working out perfectly, but as these things go, shit it’s the fan and Ephraim finds himself in a world-or multiple worlds rather-of trouble.
This is where Fair Coin excels; Ephraim makes a wish, gets what he wants, but then things start to get messy; Jena Kim likes Ephraim now, but she goes from having a Macbook to a standard PC. It’s a small change, sure, but then bigger changes start to occur every time Ephraim makes a wish. Jena Kim doesn’t just like Ephraim, but her best friends, Mary & Shelley Morales-the Hot Twins- also start pining for Ephraim’s affections. Nathan goes from mild mannered nerd to bully beating, gun wielding, serial killer and psychopath. Ephraim’s mom Madeline isn’t an alcoholic anymore but she starts seeing Ephraim’s abusive dad David again. Every time Ephraim flips the coin and makes a wish, your heart starts to pound and you begin to wonder what will happen now, or what changes might occur. It can be something simple like a change in the color of Ephraim’s bag pack or a huge change like the planet being on the brink of World War III.
Fair coin is a thrill ride from beginning to end. Myer writes these characters and scenes in an extremely detailed yet brisk manner. You never miss a beat and you find yourself practically holding your breathe as you turn the pages and wonder just what the hell is happening. The book starts to get particularly crazy and mind bending in the second half, when Ephraim tries to wish his way out of the huge messes he has created. Reality practically shatters and it’s up to Ephraim to figure out exactly what the coin is and how he can put everything right with the world. There is a huge plot twist about 50% into the book that has been fantastically foreshadowed since the very beginning and it’s completely jaw dropping. It practically re-writes the laws and psychics already established within the books mythos, but in a complimentary way. You’ll find yourself almost wanting to go back and read that first half to pick up on some of the foreshadowing you missed. Ephraim makes for a surprisingly refreshing protagonist; he isn’t your typical whiney, emo teenager, instead he is a smart–most of the time, anyway–decisive young man with a kind heart. Jena Kim, Nathan and the Morales Twins are extremely fascinating characters, especially when Ephraim’s wishes start to take a toll on them, they start changing and you begin to see a whole new side to their personalities.
What makes Fair Coin such a compelling read is its break neck speed, witty, sharp dialogue and balls off the wall crazy storyline. The wish fulfillment aspect is also something we can all relate to, but the book makes sure never to stray into “cautionary tale about how wishes are bad” territory like most stories that deal with the same basic subject matter. EC Myers Fair Coin is a rip roaring, smart, inventive novel that never misses a beat and will have you on the edge while reading. It’s a true example of Young Adult fiction done well and probably one of the best books you are going to be reading this Summer.
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