Burning Midnight – Will McIntosh

About the Book

Seventeen-year-old David Sullivan’s life is about to change—all because of one tiny, priceless item found in the murky bottom of a Brooklyn water tower.

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make rent.

No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the more expensive—and the greater the improvement.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.

There’s no question the Gold is worth millions, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

320 pages (hardcover)
Published on February 2, 2016
Published by Delacorte Books
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent by the author in exchange for an honest review.

I am a huge fan of Will McIntosh. Huge. He’s one of the best discoveries I’ve made in a long damn time. His books, as a rule, blow my mind. Now, I’m not a huge fan of young adult, but if Will McIntosh is writing it, I need to read it. The man could write a dictionary and I’d put it on my Mount To Be Read. No joke.

So, he sent me Burning Midnight to review, and I started reading it the instant I laid my hands on it.

At first blush there are a few things I really liked about this book. First, McIntosh has diverse characters, complete with diverse sexuality, who are largely (but not completely) from impoverished backgrounds. It’s refreshing to read a young adult book that felt so much like a natural sampling of actual young adults. Secondly, many young adult books I read feature go-it-alone teens, but this one has a bit of that, and a strong family unit as well, as is shown in the relationship between Sully and his mother.

Secondly, the premise itself is unique enough to attract attention. Orbs that imbue special abilities can be found by scavengers (of sorts) and then sold to people who can absorb them and then gain special skills – the ability to read fast, added intelligence, and so on. Some orbs are harder to find (and more expensive) than others. People find them, sell them, get money from them. The more rare they are, the harder they are to find, the more money people get. So really, there is a whole economy based on these things, and our protagonist Sully is right in the middle of it all.

The first half of this novel is really setting up the world, the issues involved in it, and the characters (and their respective backgrounds). It’s interesting, and McIntosh manages to keep it all very interesting as he slowly, slowly develops this really interesting stew of elements. It’s not obvious at first, but as readers get more absorbed in the story, it becomes clear that not everything is as good as it seems to be, even one character referring to the orbs and saying, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Really at that point it becomes clear that things are going to start moving a new direction.

At the halfway point, everything takes a really dramatic turn, and the book itself gets a whole new tone. Instead of world building, McIntosh puts everything he’s created into action. The book turns into a fast paced romp that plays heavily on the orbs, discovery, and relationships. It is extremely gripping, and I was absolutely shocked that a young adult book was impossible to put down, and kept me up far too late into the night.

There is a gigantic plot twist that I didn’t even guess was coming. I read so many books, generally I have a faint whiff of what is coming around the corner, but Burning Midnight blew me away. I was so surprised by the way things twisted toward the end I had to put the book down and absorb the change for a while. It isn’t unbelievable, but it is completely shocking – the kind of shocking that only McIntosh can deliver his readers. That jolt to your system that really reminds you why reading is so damn amazing.

Burning Midnight was a delightful book. Diverse characters, tight relationships, a complex economy, realistic backgrounds and desires, and a ton of action topped off with a nice dollop of surprise. This book has it all, and I really didn’t expect it. I wasn’t sure what such a successful adult author could accomplish when he focused on young adult books, but by damn, McIntosh can swim in each pool quite well.

Burning Midnight is fantastic. McIntosh is one of my favorite authors, and this book just underscores all the reasons why. It’s an interesting social commentary that will be easy for teenagers to digest, and captivating enough to transcend genres.


5/5 stars


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