BURNING MIDNIGHT by Will McIntosh – Review

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

BURNING MIDNIGHT by Will McIntosh – ReviewBurning Midnight by Will McIntosh
Published by Delacorte Press on February 2 2016
Genres: Young adult, Thriller, Science fiction
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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The nitty-gritty: A fast-paced sci-fi adventure, with one of the coolest concepts I’ve ever run across, and a twist that you won’t see coming.

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Will McIntosh’s adult novels (Love Minus Eighty and Defenders) but this is the first book of his I’ve read. In his YA debut, McIntosh has come up with a truly awesome idea and built an exciting and engaging story around it, with well-drawn and sympathetic characters. Much of the story revolves around the mystery of the marble-sized spheres that suddenly appeared all over the world, hidden in nooks and crannies, and when the author finally reveals their purpose, well, get ready to have your mind blown! I think the word “outrageous” would not be out-of-place when describing this story, and I mean outrageous in the best possible way.

The story takes place five years after the spheres appeared, and in that time a booming economy has grown around them. Different colored spheres will give the lucky owner special abilities when they “burn” two of the same color by holding them up to their temples. For example, Rose gives you the ability to hold your breath, while Lemon Yellow will make you grow an inch. There are literally dozens of colors and special abilities, and you can either find spheres “in the wild” (spheres that haven’t yet been discovered) or purchase them for ridiculous prices from dealers and on Ebay.

Sully runs a booth at the local flea market buying and selling spheres, and even though he’s made a name for himself with the local dealers, what he’s really famous for is being cheated out of millions of dollars by billionaire Alex Holliday after finding a Cherry Red. When a girl name Hunter comes to his booth one day and proposes that they work together and split the profits, Sully agrees (and it doesn’t hurt that he’s attracted to her). But one thing they never expected to find was a new color, and that’s exactly what happens when Hunter unearths a Gold in a rooftop water tower. Their incredible find sets off a chain of events that could make them rich—or change the world forever.

I have to say that the “treasure hunt” story is one I don’t run into too often, and I thoroughly enjoyed the suspense and excitement as the characters maniacally search for the colored spheres. And of course, when they find one it’s even more thrilling! I simply loved this idea, and although some of the world-building elements were hard to swallow, and as an adult reader I had so many questions about the nature of the spheres, this story is perfect for anyone with a sense of adventure. This book has a page-turnability of eleven, and I gobbled it up in only two days (which is saying something, because I’m not a very fast reader!). The first half of the book does a great job of introducing the characters and the world of the colored spheres, but the real action begins when Sully and Hunter discover the Gold, and from that point on Burning Midnight reads like a runaway roller-coaster. My only complaint about the pacing of the story is near the end when it feels like McIntosh is trying to pack too much into his tale, and some of the time jumps were a bit on the awkward side. But by that point most readers will be too engrossed in the action to worry about things like that. You’ll simply want to keep reading to find out what the hell is going on!

The story involves three main characters—Sully, whose life revolves around the spheres (OK, I guess everyone’s life revolves around the spheres!), and who desperately wants to make a big sale so that he and his mom can stop worrying about where their next rent payment is coming from; Hunter, a canny but distrustful girl who’s been homeless her whole life and fights for every dollar she makes hunting spheres; and the evil Alex Holliday, a ruthless and slimy man who has built up his sphere empire by cheating and preying on the weak. McIntosh did all the right things with his characters: I loved the heroes and hated the villain. And his side characters are extremely well-developed, in particular Sully’s friend Mandy, who is the voice of reason in the story (I mean, what are the spheres really here for??). Mandy is an “organic,” someone who never has and never will burn spheres herself.

I mentioned before that some of the world-building was a little on the sketchy side. For example, who was the first person to discover what the spheres do? It seems odd that someone would have randomly stumbled upon that detail. And yet, without it, this story wouldn’t exist. Asking questions like these generally happens when I read a book for younger readers, which leads me to my other issue with Burning Midnight, which is that this book felt much more middle grade to me than young adult. Despite the characters’ ages—most of the teens are around seventeen—everything felt too squeaky clean, and I was never really worried about anything bad happening. Even when the purpose of the spheres is revealed, and the book suddenly turns on a dime and becomes more of a horror story, it never felt as if the characters were in any danger. Some violent stuff happens at the end, but it was almost comically violent, which is one reason I’m using the middle grade comparison. You can definitely hand this over to a ten or eleven-year-old and they’d enjoy it just fine.

And the big reveal? Well, you won’t get any more about that in this review. All I can say is Will McIntosh has the best imagination ever! Unpredictable endings are few and far between, and so I revel in each one I come across.

I guess in the end I have to say Burning Midnight is a book for anyone, no matter what your age, who enjoys adventure, treasure hunts, intrigue, evil corporations, true friendships and especially crazy story-lines. I simply cannot wait to read more from this author!

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

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Posted February 5, 2016 by Tammy in 4 stars, Reviews / 15 Comments


15 responses to “BURNING MIDNIGHT by Will McIntosh – Review

  1. I don’t think I’ll mind the super fast pacing right now, even if the ending is a bit overwhelming. It’s good to hear that you enjoyed this one as much as you did, it’s coming up on my list next week!

  2. I liked the treasure hunt idea for sure. I did feel like this was much more geared to upper middle grade than to YA, to be honest. I didn’t think it had all the elements of YA. Perhaps the author went in the complete opposite direction of writing adult. I needed more world building. I understood the mystery behind the spheres, but I still needed there to be more build up about where they came from, etc. It was just kind of “BOOM” at the end. And I was not a fan of the romance, which really wasn’t much of a romance. I just didn’t feel that connection. I did like the author’s writing, my first book by him. Glad you enjoyed it. My review HERE
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    • Tammy

      I didn’t mind the romance so much, at least it wasn’t overwhelming. But a little more about the spheres would have been nice. It took me a while before I realized they were really small. For some reason I missed the detail about them being “marble sized” in the beginning.

    • Tammy

      Addictive is the word for sure, I love when I absolutely can’t put a book down, and this was one of those times:-)

    • Tammy

      I’ve heard some reviewers say it reminds them of Pokémon, so you have the right idea!

  3. I KEEP SEEING THIS BOOK AROUND! I feel like it might be a me book, I might enjoy it! I honestly hadn’t given it much though. “Treasure hunt” book, huh? Interesting how it has a MG feel to it (I don’t read a lot of MG, so this might bother me). It’s got a lovely cover, that’s for sure! 😀

    Great review, Tammy. 🙂

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!
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    • Tammy

      Technically it’s not MG, so you’d probably enjoy it, Alyssa. Such a cool idea and great characters and lots of surprises:-)

  4. LOL oh man, it definitely turns out really random towards the end huh? I just couldn’t take the story too seriously after that. It definitely did feel MG and some of the character’s decisions were hard to swallow. But it was a fun and unique concept nonetheless and I appreciated the follow through! Lovely review Tammy!
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    • Tammy

      Thanks Jeann, definitely the most fun I’ve had reading in a while, and we all need fun sometimes, right?

  5. I hadn’t heard anything about this one before your review, but you make it sound so really good! I love a good treasure hunt story, and even though it’s a cliche I usually love those “canny but distrustful” homeless teen characters. I like my YA a little less clean and shiny though, so I may need to start with McIntosh’s adult stuff!

    • Tammy

      I honestly can’t wait to read his adult books now! I’ll be curious to see what you think if you do get a chance:-)