amari and the night brothers and why seeing is not believing

While Amari and The Night Brothers may be intended as a children’s book, its message is one that can be understood by everyone. Described by reviewers as Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black (I saw it more as My Hero Academia meets Harry Potter, but perhaps that’s just me…), Amari is fantastical tale about a poor, Black girl from the projects who discovers an entirely new world that she’d never imagined possible and has her life forever changed because of it. And as her brother Quinton always says: “You’re not going to change the world unless you hang with people who want to change the world too.” We all know that you have to make yourself uncomfortable in order to grow. Growth cannot happen if you keep yourself boxed in.

Reading this book took me back to my Harry Potter days, if I’m being quite honest. I found myself not wanting to put the book down most of the time, and I was always on edge wondering what might happen next. But enough about that. Let me tell you why you should’ve read Amari and The Night Brothers like…yesterday.

Like I said before, Amari is a 12-year-old Black girl from Atlanta who is used to constantly having to prove herself to people. She lives with her (overworked) mother in the ‘Wood (The Rosewood Projects) and her brother, Quinton, until he goes missing while working a mysterious job that he’s not able to tell anyone about. And while Quinton is Amari’s best friend in the whole entire world, she also feels like she’s constantly living in his shadow and can never measure up to him, despite this not being true.

After Amari hits rock bottom and is essentially expelled from school for finally standing up to a racist bully, she receives a mysterious visit from her missing brother in the form of a ‘Wakeful Dream.’ This dream forever changes Amari’s life and fast tracks her into the summer camp of a lifetime at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and the chance to finally track down her older brother.

Once Amari discovers the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, her life is never (and can’t ever be) the same. She discovers that there’s an entire world in front of her (and others) that she hadn’t even been able to see until now.

Mythical creatures like Yetis and mermaids, legendary places like Atlantis and Shangri-La, unexplainable mysteries like the Bermuda triangle, occult social media platforms, and more await Amari in the supernatural world. You name it, and the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs most likely deals in it. The Bureau is a secret organization that maintains the order between the supernatural world and the known world (notice that I didn’t say real, because what makes this world any less real). It keeps magical secrets from the known world to ensure that it doesn’t fall into chaos. The Bureau gives everyone peace of mind by doing this, since most people fear what they don’t understand, and this same fear typically breeds hatred. By not showing non-supernatural people the things that they aren’t able to understand, life is made easier for everyone. A very spiritual message if you think about it, and my entire reason for writing this blog post.

It’s quite easy for us to get caught up in our own view of the world and to believe that everyone else sees things the way that we see them; and that, in itself, is a trap. As many people as there are on this planet, there are that many worldviews, as well. It’s amazing when you truly think about it, but this can often lead to conflicts and disagreements with others, as they try to make people see the world in the same manner that they do. For instance, Amari can now see and interact with the supernatural world, while her mother cannot. There is no way that Amari will be able to make her mother understand this part of the world, and that’s okay because she’s not able to. Neither of them are wrong in their worldview, and it shouldn’t change the nature of their relationship. Life is all about perception, and when we really get down to it, the entire world is one big illusion anyway.

The deeper Amari gets into the supernatural world, the more she realizes how little about the world she actually understands. And when she finds out that she is a magician (people who are looked down on in the supernatural world), she sees that no matter where you go, people don’t really change. Just like people in the known world looked down on her for being poor and Black, people in the supernatural world look down on her for her magical prowess. In both worlds, people immediately judge her for things that she cannot control and instead let fear take over. But Amari doesn’t allow their perceptions of her to change the way that she presents herself to the world. If anything, it gives her even more confidence to stand in her truth.

Despite all of the hardships, setbacks, and betrayals faced at the Bureau, Amari doesn’t let anything stop her on her quest to find her brother. She makes great friends along the way, but many enemies, as well. She connects with her ancestors and learns of the resilient bloodline from which she descends, and she uses this as fuel to keep pushing on, even when things seem bleak. (Side note: I just want to live in the Department of Good Fortunes and Bad Omens, honestly. Like can I just…? The constellation casting was my favorite part of the entire book. But, anyway, back to the review!)

One of the very first lessons Amari learns at the Bureau is that the eyes can be tricked: “Never trust. Take absolutely nothing at face value. In viewing anything, assume its appearance is false until otherwise proven.”

Also known as: “Seeing is not believing.”

And by the end of the summer, Amari learns to trust not what she can see, but instead what she cannot. Her intuition. She finds out that embracing this part of herself leads to her becoming truly unstoppable. And with this realization, she makes the decision to no longer run away when things get tough, and to instead stick things out. She learns the importance of always betting on and believing in herself. And while this path may seem scary, she understands that this is a part of growing up. Something we all must come to terms with sooner, or later in life. (*cues It’s My Life*)

Amari and The Night Brothers is a must-read! I cannot wait for the next book in the trilogy. And I don’t know how, but I managed not to spoil anything about the book, so you should still be able to experience it in its purest form. There is also a movie adaptation slated to be released by Universal Pictures and Don Cheadle, starring Marsai Martin as Amari, but I don’t see much else on it right now. But it’s definitely something that we can look forward to cinematically!

So, I’m asking you to change your worldview up a little bit today and check out Amari and The Night Brothers. I bet you won’t be able to put this book down until you’ve read it entirely! Perhaps author B.B. Alston is a magician as well…

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