Who wouldn't want a magic coin that would grant wishes? I mean, even though pop culture (Fair Coin included) tells me that such things are not to be trusted, I would still be ALL over that. Ephraim uses this mysterious coin he finds liberally and largely unquestioningly, like a kid devouring the entire Halloween candy haul in one sitting, unconcerned with the inevitable consequences. While there is nothing new about the magic wish plot line, there's something very compelling about it, thus why it lingers in our collective imaginations. Even knowing the risks, how many humans would be able to resist the temptation to change everything with a thought?
The first half of Fair Coin was a bit slow-going. I liked Myers' writing, but I was hoping for more from the concept and characters. Well, let me just say that the book really takes off in the second half, which I'll talk about later on, as that bit might be somewhat spoilerific. For now, I want to talk about the characters, which may be somewhat complicated, since after every wish the same people are a bit different.
Ephraim, our hero, really is not very heroic, especially early on. Sure, I just talked about how I would totally go gaga for a magic coin and make the most of it, but Ephraim makes wishes like they're about to go out of style. Where some people might have a natural, healthy skepticism about this object and how beneficial and trustworthy it is, Ephraim just sort of assumes that it will grant his wishes and everything will be awesome. He also has very little conscience about some of the things that he wishes, totally willing to mess with others for his own gain at first. It even takes him a surprisingly long time to start worrying even after he notices changes unrelated to his wishes occurring. He came across as selfish and naive. By the end, though, he was showing more promise and thoughtfulness, thank goodness. Besides, that attitude might actually be more realistic than the logical responses I would hope to see.
Nathan, Ephraim's best friend, is simply awful. I don't like the guy in any of his iterations, and he is one of the characters who changes the most from wish to wish. Whether he's popular or a nerd, he creeps me out, and I think Ephraim's affection for Nathan is one of my issues with him as an MC. Nathan is a character straight out of a manga: the nerdy, awkward perv who takes photos of all of the girls chests and butts slyly on his phone camera. If you don't read manga, just believe me that that character shows up quite a bit. I've never encountered anyone like that in school here, and so he just comes off as a major sleaze, especially since he wants to date both of the hot twins.Yes, there are hot twins, Mary and Shelley. I love their names, though; they make me chuckle.
The other character you need to know about is Jena, the object of Ephraim's romantic desires. She, too, I have issues with, because she really just did not seem like a real person to me. In theory, I should love Jena Kim. She's Asian, dreams of being a librarian (awesome, but good luck to her finding a job), loves to read, and is a big nerd. However, she's a bit too much the nerdy boy's fantasy; she's ALL of the things a nerd would dream of packed into one person, and it just feels like too much to be real. For example, at a morning assembly, she receives awards for 'National Honor Society, Science Scholar, Math Scholar,' and, not only that, everyone cheers for her, including wolf whistles from the football team. This girl, who wears glasses and constantly switches up the frames, who works in the library for fun, who participates voluntarily in Quiz Bowl, is one of the most popular and attractive girls in school. Maybe this happened in your school, but mine had a pretty clear divide between the nerds and the popular people.
I will say that the characterization strengthened in the second half as well, although there's still room to grow. I found myself much more interested in their problems by the end than I was at the beginning. Possibly, this is all a result of Ephraim's growth, as he learns how little changes in a person can make a big distinction, thus better understanding those around him and appreciating what makes them unique and beloved.
Alright, now with that aside, I want to talk a little bit about the second half of the book. Just a little. READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION, as this will include some spoilers, although these comments would not have been for me. I either heard along the way or just suspected the plot was going sort of in this direction.
Fair Coin's second half reminds me heavily of Sliders, a television show from the 90s that I thought was awesome in its nerdiness. The mechanics, of course, are quite different, but the alternate universe jumping is so cool. I love that and I love how that makes anything possible. The mechanism by which this occurs still confuses me, but Myers has set this up convincingly enough that I'm willing to roll with the flow. Plus, more might be explained in Quantum Coin.
Everything wraps up neatly at the end of Fair Coin, so I'm certainly curious to know where the story will be heading in the next installment. Though Fair Coin did not grab me immediately, I was ultimately satisfied and glad to have gotten the chance to read it. For those who might be struggling a bit at first, if you enjoy thought-provoking science fiction reads, I would urge you to press on for the shift in the second half of the book.