What If: a pair of words that have built entire fictitious universes. Every compelling story, especially young adult (YA), is rooted in the exposition of these two words. E.C. Myers’s Fair Coin (Pyr Books) is no exception. Ephraim Scott, a high school junior, returns home from school one day to find his mother almost dead from her suicide attempt. When she wakes from her drunken stupor, she tells him she’d identified his body in the morgue. The corpse does resemble him, and even has the credentials to match, a library card bearing his name. But his doppelganger also possesses a coin, a quarter, and when he returns to school, Ephraim finds a mysterious note in his locker: Make a wish and flip the coin to make it come true.
Ephraim wishes his mother were more maternal and less the absent, alcoholic parent. He flips the coin. He feels dizzy and nauseous, but nothing seems to have changed – except everything has. The next morning, he wakes up to the smell of bacon. His mother has not only transformed into a nurturer, she’s also got a different job, a better job. But not all is good news, as a teacher, who was in fine health before, has fallen off a ladder and hurt herself. The coin, as magical as it may be, is not without consequences.
The challenge of a ‘What If’ story like Fair Coin becomes what inevitably follows: What Next. Once the afterglow of the premise wears off, the author risks a deflation of narrative energy. Fair Coin overcomes the challenge beautifully. Myers has the gumption to change the game, to take the story in a different direction, morphing into science fiction from fantasy. Corruption of power grounds the novel, but the attention paid to teenage romance and familial relations elevate the book beyond its genre. A fun, fast read, Ephraim’s excellent adventures will continue with the next installment, Quantum Coin, out this month.