Fair Coin by EC Myers
Publisher: PYR/March, 2012
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 disÂ¬turbing: 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.
Ephraim Scott’s life could be better. He comes home to find his mother unconscious with pills all over the floor, and realizes that she thinks he’s dead. A trip to the hospital confirms that a boy his age has indeed been killed in a bus accident; a boy that happens to look just like him, and has a library card with his name on it. Ok, maybe the library made a mistake, and hasn’t it been said that everyone has a twin somewhere? Ephraim could live with these explanations, until he finds the coin, and the note telling him to flip it and make a wish. What can possibly go wrong, right?
The ways that things can go wrong are pretty much endless in Fair Coin, author EC Myers’s debut novel. At first, after Eph makes a wish on the coin, things seem to be better. He wishes that his mother wasn’t so messed up, and waking up to the smell of bacon and coffee, his mom in the kitchen getting ready for her office job (instead of a job at the local ShopRite), is most certainly a step in the right direction. Then there’s the girl he’s crazy about, the geeky cool Jena. Maybe wishing she’d like him would help steer things in the right direction, yes? When things start changing for the worst, namely some alarming (and violent) changes in his best friend Nathan, Ephraim decides to get rid of the coin, with disastrous results.
I liked Eph. Really, I did. In spite of him being a pretty horny teen (a nice pair of, um, lungs, could distract him like you wouldn’t believe), he really did try to do the right thing, even when things started going to hell. And boy did they. Let’s put it this way, the coin is no monkey’s paw (you know, magic talisman, three wishes?), although it may remind you of one. Actually, the coin is part of something much bigger, and much more complex than Eph could have imagined. Ultimately, he learns that every time he uses the coin, he’s transported into a parallel universe. Yep, we’re talking multiworlds and quantum physics (and doppelgangers!). I love stories like this that deal in some pretty fascinating science, while throwing in a ton of adventure. Things move very, very fast, and once Eph and the gang start hopping all over the place (parallel universes!), it can be a bit difficult to keep up with. I did find that, instead of stopping to try to collate everything , just go with the flow of the story. Seriously, it totally works. It really gives you no chance to catch your breath, and even though Eph is the main character, that Jena is a scene eater, and she doesn’t take Eph’s crap. Kudos to strong female characters! But I digress… A truly scary, psychotic villain rounds out the cast of characters and this is one ride you won’t soon forget. Things never get too deep with the characters, but if you’re looking for a fun, nonstop read, you’ll enjoy this. Good thing Quantum Coin, the 2nd in the series, comes out in October, because if this crackling debut is any indication, it’s gonna be a humdinger of a sequel!