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Mercury Boys (Paperback)
History and the speculative collide with the modern world when a group of high school girls form a secret society after discovering they can communicate with boys from the past, in this powerful look at female desire, jealousy, and the shifting lines between friendship and rivalry.
After her life is upended by divorce and a cross-country move, 16-year-old Saskia Brown feels like an outsider at her new school—not only is she a transplant, but she’s also biracial in a population of mostly white students. One day while visiting her only friend at her part-time library job, Saskia encounters a vial of liquid mercury, then touches an old daguerreotype—the precursor of the modern-day photograph—and makes a startling discovery. She is somehow able to visit the man in the portrait: Robert Cornelius, a brilliant young inventor from the nineteenth century. The hitch: she can see him only in her dreams.
Saskia shares her revelation with some classmates, hoping to find connection and friendship among strangers. Under her guidance, the other girls steal portraits of young men from a local college’s daguerreotype collection and try the dangerous experiment for themselves. Soon, they each form a bond with their own “Mercury Boy,” from an injured Union soldier to a charming pickpocket in New York City.
At night, the girls visit the boys in their dreams. During the day, they hold clandestine meetings of their new secret society. At first, the Mercury Boys Club is a thrilling diversion from their troubled everyday lives, but it’s not long before jealousy, violence and secrets threaten everything the girls hold dear.
About the Author
Chandra Prasad is the author of the critically acclaimed novels On Borrowed Wings, Death of a Circus, Breathe the Sky, and Damselfly, a female-driven young adult text used in classrooms in parallel with Lord of the Flies. Prasad is also the editor of—and a contributor to—Mixed, the first-ever anthology of short stories on the multiracial experience. Her shorter works have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Week, New Haven Noir, and Teen Voices, among others.
Praise for Mercury Boys
Finalist for the 2022 Connecticut Book Awards
“Mercury Boys has daguerreotypes and dashing strangers, hiding spots and crossed lines. It's full of secrets and fraught with danger. Ultimately, it's like mercury itself—mesmerizing, terrifying, thrilling, and dangerously beautiful. It's pure alchemy.”
—Carrie Firestone, author of The Loose Ends List and The Unlikelies
“Mercury Boys is a thrilling journey into the perils of adolescent friendship and a touching commentary on love's timelessness.”
—Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Beasts Made of Night and Crown of Thunder
"With vividly drawn, multidimensional characters and a riveting voice, Mercury Boys weaves a compelling tale of the intoxicating power of friendship, female rivalry, and romance."
—Kate Marshall, author of I Am Still Alive, soon to be a major motion picture
“In this snapshot of modern teenage life with a historical twist, Prasad creates a world as haunting as a daguerreotype and as vivid as a high-resolution photo. An exhilarating and thought-provoking ride that will make you think twice next time you’re thumbing through a photo album.”
—Michael Belanger, author of The History of Jane Doe
“For history buffs and hopeless romantics alike, Mercury Boys is a compelling, imaginative romp that will leave teen readers longing for an alternate reality—and a Mercury Boy—of their own.”
—Natasha Friend, author of How We Roll and Perfect
"The concept of ‘mean girl’ time travelers has enormous cinematic potential, particularly as it is tethered to the zeitgeist. In Mercury Boys, Chandra Prasad shows her unique ability to give voice to the acute angst of today’s adolescents, caught between the malaise of contemporary society and an inchoate yearning for the values and romance of the past.”
—Amy Adelson, Motion Picture/Television Producer of Above Suspicion and You Know My Name
“The twist in Chandra Prasad’s Mercury Boys is that the nightly adventures in the past are not the source of danger, but rather the reason behind an ever-expanding web of lies that entraps both girls. In fact, the supernatural aspects of the novel take a backseat to intense, and sadly all-too familiar, high school drama . . . Mercury Boys has a clear supernatural component with the leaps into the worlds of the daguerreotypes, but the major tension exists in the real world.”
“A unique and thought-provoking YA magical realism, Mercury Boys is an unexpected story about group culture and friendship with an intriguing combination of past and present.”
—Young Adult Books Central
“When everyone learns about her mom’s affair with a substitute teacher half her age, Saskia and her dad move from Arizona to Connecticut for a fresh start. Saskia is having trouble adjusting to her new reality and doesn’t feel like she fits in at school; she’s an outsider, mixed race, and not rich...Prasad explores power dynamics among teen girls through an interplay of various influences such as wealth, appearance, and race.”
“This well-researched speculative narrative centering history, romance, and toxic friendships will appeal.”
“A secret society shifts from exciting to toxic in this dark tale with hints of magic . . . This story is layered and unique; the surface-level concepts of time travel and secret societies will draw readers in, but the jealousy and desire for revenge that fuel the secret society add depth and unexpected elements to the plot.”
—School Library Journal