Soho Teen, August 2021
Saskia is angry about her abrupt exit from Arizona. It’s where she became the content, confident and not-too-terrible teenager her parents could trust. It is also where Mom openly hooked up with the (very young) man students had dubbed “the hot substitute”.
Moving with just Dad was depressing. As a suddenly-single parent and nurse with a bonkers schedule, he may not notice her mood. It’s fine. Saskia is making friends.
Lila certainly seems responsible. She’s a good student and holds a part-time job on the Western Connecticut State campus. To be fair, any work would be way better than baby-sitting her squad of younger siblings; but Lila genuinely enjoys the opportunity to study the origins of processing photographs.
When Saskia is assigned to study Robert Cornelius (chemist, considered pioneer of photography), Lila is quite happy to show Saskia the daguerreotypes so meticulously maintained in the school’s library. She’s less comfortable when her new friend is so fixated on the likeness of Cornelius that she insists on “borrowing” it.
Saskia meant to keep it overnight only, but she hadn’t realized it was a portal. Or, that when she closed her eyes to sleep, she would meet Cornelius. Face-to-face. In his time. Too real to be a dream, time-travel was the only explanation. Unless it was mercury poisoning. Probably should not have handled that.
In an enthusiastic effort to share her discovery and befriend the oh-so-popular Paige, Saskia loses sight of that-which-is-important. Including Lila.
Mercury Boys is the archetypal YA narrative. Actual issues that can, and often do, affect adolescents today, are addressed. The eye-on-the-prize type of tunnel-vision that can lead a typically reasonable teen astray, aptly portrayed. Ms. Prasad’s antagonist employs peer-pressure in its most passive-aggressive form and the girls’ summer “fun” has very real, adverse repercussions.
I’ll be excitedly introducing Mercury Boys to “my” students. I think the combination of fact and fantasy creates a captivating story.
This review was written by jv poore for Buried Under Books, with huge thanks for the Advance Review Copy to donate to my favorite classroom library.
Reviewed by jv poore, September 2021.