by Will McIntosh
To be published on February 2, 2016
by Delacorte Press
Source: ARC from publisher for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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 the 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 greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere. 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 priceless, 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.My take: Burning Midnight was a fun, page-turning story about a diverse gang of underdogs out to stop an evil billionaire and save the world. The book's premise is that colored spheres start showing up all over the world, and people soon realize that by "burning" these spheres (holding them to their temples) they can absorb the powers within (better eyesight, singing talent, etc.) The spheres are different colors and categorized according to rarity like diamonds or ...Pokémon cards. Rare spheres can go for millions and the rich burn them with abandon as they try to make themselves better looking, smarter, etc. The aforementioned evil billionaire, being a typical greedy capitalist, wants to corner the market on spheres and, as the story opens, has cheated the main narrator, Sully, out of money he owed him for a sphere. Sully soon meets Hunter, a mysterious girl who hunts spheres to make extra money, and the two of them build a tentative partnership/alliance/flirtation. The gang is rounded out by Mandy and Sully's friend Dom.
What I Liked about Burning Midnight:
The writing, though it felt closer to the middle grade reading level to me, was smooth and flowed well, making this a quick and easy read. Sully was an engaging character, as were all the gang, at least on a surface level. They were a diverse group who had different philosophical reactions to the whole sphere thing, which was interesting. The sphere concept was fun - simple enough to be easily grasped, and gave the book a nice "quest" vibe.
What I Thought Could Have Been Better:
In the afterword, the author says that Burning Midnight was expanded from a short story, which made a lot of sense. The plot and worldbuilding were pretty basic - the first two-thirds of the story felt a little repetitious with rounds of good news followed immediately by bad. Then there was a road trip, an action sequence, and a rather rushed conclusion. I also wished for a bit more character development. Each character was given one defining "thing." Sully and Hunter were the most three-dimensional, with Mandy and Dom feeling much less so. Finally, the back cover of my ARC promised that the ending is "the craziest and most surprising climax of any novel you'll read all year." Uh... just like Mandy warns the other characters that burning spheres might not be the best idea, making marketing promises like that is always unwise. I didn't predict the ending, but given that (highlight for spoiler) the author is a sci-fi writer,(end spoiler) it wasn't incredibly shocking.
I enjoyed Burning Midnight, though it skews a little younger than my usual YA read. I'd definitely recommend it to those who are fans of books with a Rick Riordan vibe, to those are looking for something for a tween or reluctant reader of either gender, or to anyone who wants a quick, fun read.