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Mercury Boys - Review

*I received this e-arc from Soho Teen & NetGalley. All views are my own*

Picture this: Imagine an accidental discovery of going back in the past by touching a photograph and a little bit of quicksilver. That's what we get in this new novel, Mercury Boys by Chandra Prasad! This feature is no ordinary movie storyline like Flatliners or Butterfly Effect. Prasad gives an original unique taste of what it's like to be a teenage girl forming a secret society based on crushes from the past.

"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, she’s 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."

When I think of the story's premise, it's interesting to find out that there's a possibility to time travel by just touching a picture and handling a small dosage of liquid mercury. Yes, liquid mercury has been proven dangerous to humans, but the what-if factor makes you think beyond the scope of safety. What if I could travel back in time through daguerreotypes? It's a scientific game-changer, and I praise Prasad for introducing an original thought behind it. I just wished she delved on it deeper.

The story was okay. I was hoping for more in a lot of areas in the book. Even though Prasad kept things surface level, I think she lost out on the opportunity to build with each set. I would have loved to see how the difference in eras collided with one another. Someone in the 2000s visiting a person in the 1800s has to be scandalous in every way. I was looking for the adverse side effects from tampering with time and the chemical element. I also wanted to see more time spent with the characters from the past. In the direction of how the story goes, we were more focused on teenage peer pressure. The mentioning of visiting the past was just a drop in the pond.

Reading about the main characters was a flat hill to roll on as well. There wasn't much development on most one of them. I would have loved to see more dynamics between Saskia and her mom. I think Lila was forgotten about when the group was together (unless she spoke up angrily). And we could have gotten a better picture of what Adrienne was about. There were so many small yet monumental details missed!

Overall I rated this book 3-stars. The story didn't turn out how I expected it, and it left me a little empty. There was a lot of potential throughout the book that could've been explored, but I feel like Prasad missed the mark. It wasn't a bad read, just average.

Mercury Boys debuts on August 3, 2021.

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