Author: E. C. Myers
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Publication date: March 6 2012
Hardcover: 250 pages
Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disturbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day.
Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin—a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own.
The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted—if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in a new series. Book 2 comes out in 2013
How did I get this book: Bought
Why did I read this book: I first heard about this book from NK Jemisin when she recommended it in her Smugglivus post. I immediately put it on pre-order.
Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott comes home from school one day to find his mother passed out at the kitchen table – unfortunately a more than common occurrence given his mother’s alcoholism – except this time around she is holding a bottle of pills. Her suicide attempt is a reaction to having identified Ephraim’s body at the morgue that morning. Thankfully, she lives and everybody is convinced that it was all simply a horrible mistake. Then Ephraim finds amongst the other boy’s belongings – which are very similar but not quite the same as his own – a coin. A coin that, he learns, grants wishes when he flips it. At first he is understandably doubtful: a magic coin? Surely nothing like that can exist. But once his first wish is – unexpectedly, surprisingly – granted, he is enthused by all the possibilities. Soon he starts wishing for other things: for a better job for his mother, for his best friend Nathan to get the girl of his dreams and for Jenna, the girl he likes, to like him back. But with every subsequent wish he starts to notice unexpected changes around him, some of them subtle, some of them more life-altering than he wished for. And then he learns the true nature of the coin and that there are consequences to his every wish…
Fair Coin is an immensely fun plot-driven novel and the summary/blurb doesn’t even begin to address what truly goes on in the story. To reveal the real nature of this story would inevitably and unforgivably spoil the book 1 – and the twist or revelation about the coin and the wishes is really where I became excited about the book. That revelation doesn’t happen till half way through the book though, and once it does, the story really gains momentum, not to mention that Extra Cool status. The plot moves fast, each wish taking Ephraim to unexpected places, affecting not only his life but also the lives of those around him.
On that front, the best aspect of Fair Coin for me, are the moral conundrums, the ethics of using the coin and the author manages to address them – to a certain extent – not only when it comes to wish-making but also when it comes to messing up with unknown forces of the physical universe.
“To a certain extent” because even though the story and the characters talk about the ethics and the moral consequences of wish-making, I felt those were only surface deep, never really getting to the nitty-gritty bottom of anything. And this brings me to the Fair Coin’s main flaw as I see it: the characters don’t go much beyond a certain script. The main character is a typical teenager, the main villain is a typical villain and so on and so forth which translates as: their emotional range don’t go much further than what is expected from them. Someone dies, main character cries for about half a page and that’s it. Someone else loses someone extremely important to them and one page later it is like nothing has happened and they are laughing as though it’s all forgotten – even if the text TELLS me they are grieving, I don’t see it. The characters’ emotional reactions are not developed enough to move the reader or to ensure any deeper connection with the story.
That isn’t to say the characterisations are completely bad – not at all. The portrayals of the teenager characters are believable and there is a plethora of cool female characters that have huge roles to play in the story. Even if, for the most part, Ephraim is making wishes that will affect the female characters in his life more than any others – these female characters still have agency and react to this once learning what’s happened. There is definitely a degree in which Ephraim and his friend Nathan objectify the girls they like but this element is addressed and is part of Ephraim’s learning curve as a character.
One last thing: the story is full of twists and turns and I loved this aspect of the novel. But thinking about it and trying to analyse all the elements, I am not entirely convinced – and I believe there is one fundamental problem with the premise of the novel. I will expand on this bit as a footnote for those who have read the book already so don’t read it if you don’t want to be spoiled. 2
That said, there could be an explanation for this – and that might be exactly what book 2 will be about. Despite its problems with the characterisation, I loved the premise of the novel and how it all played out and Fair Coin is ultimately, a super fun book.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: I really loved Jena and Zoe – they were awesome secondary characters who turned out to be much more important that we first thought.
Rating: 6 – Good, leaning toward 7
Reading Next: The Pillars of Hercules by David Constantine
Buy the Book:
Ebook available for kindle US
- If you don’t want to be spoiled, avoid at all costs reading Kirkus’ review of the book ↩
- ****SPOILERS! SPOILERS!****
This all began because a future version of Nathan got stuck in one of the universes and needed someone who could operate the coin so he could go back home. He found that world version of Ephraim and Nathan, hence the whole thing began. My thing is: he had absolutely no need for a Nathan analogue since HE could operate the controller! All he needed was to find an Ephraim (or a Zoe/Jena as it turns out) and BOOM, he could be home. Having said that: Nathaniel was lying wasn’t he? He DID need someone to operate the controller and that someone was Zoe because his biometrics wouldn’t let him: buy WHY? This is killing me! I bet this is what book 2 will be about.
****SPOILERS! SPOILERS!**** ↩