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Khanh the Killjoy

Fair Coin

Fair Coin - E. C. Myers Actual rating: 2.5A butterfly flapped its wings off the coast of Brazil and I ended up not enjoying this book, can't we just leave it at that so I don't have to get all analytical?No? Fine.Let's be honest here, who among us hasn't at one time or another, yearned for the ability to make wishes. From our childhood fantasies of the genie in the lamp à la Aladdin, the innocence of such wishes turned into a more nuanced version as we grow up and learn that there's no such thing as a free lunch. Or free wishes. Nothing comes without its consequences, as demonstrated in The Butterfly Effect, The Monkey's Paw...etc. This book is more of the latter; a combination of chaos theory and sci-fi, combined with the urges, desires, and emotions of a mentally screwed up teenage boy. The premise is beautiful, promising. The actual execution is considerably more chaotic. Pun intended. Ultimately, I found this book rather dull, despite the very quick pace and action-driven plot.This is not to say it's not well-written, but I couldn't enjoy the story overall. This is purely subjective, but I expected a lighter plot, with deeper characters. What I got was a whole lot of mess. There's a reason I didn't choose to major in theoretical physics.Ephraim is the child of an alcoholic mom with all the ensuing guilt, responsibility, and emotional baggage. He returns home one day to find his mom almost dead; it turned out she tried to kill herself because she thought Ephraim died earlier that day. Ephraim didn't die, but it seemed to be his double (we never do get to see the body); Ephraim gets his belongings, among which is a Puerto Rican coin, which comes with vague instructions about making wishes. Just for shits and giggles, Ephraim makes a wish. It comes true. But along with it comes consequences he never expected.Come on, is that really such a surprise? Hasn't he seen the Simpson's Treehouse of Horrors' version of The Monkey's Paw? What teenaged boy hasn't? A classic, I tell you.Ephraim is a sad, sympathetic character. He's had a rough life. His father is out of the picture, and he's left with a mom who is barely functional. Children of abusive parents learn to cope, and while his mother is not physically abusive, she is an alcoholic, and that comes with similar mental scarring. Ephraim holds himself responsible for her, covering her through her shift at work, even blaming himself for her suicide attempt."'God, Mom. How could you do that to yourself?' He squeezed the bed railing. 'Suicide, Mom? Really?''It's my fault,' he said. 'I should have been home sooner. I was late leaving school. I had no idea you were going through all that.' He tried to swallow the lump in his throat."Denial, making excuses, covering up for her mistakes, worrying about her. Children of alcoholics learn at a very early age to cope, and consequently, Ephraim is more mature, more of an adult, more able to take care of himself than his mother ever was. Naturally, one of the first wishes Ephraim makes is for his mother to be normal. Ephraim is nice, bland, vanilla, completely beta, his compulsion to fix things with his mother spills out to his everyday life too, as he struggles to come to terms with the consequences, intended and unintended, of his wishes. And of course, fixing a bad wish with more wishes always works out so well.Messes turn into bigger messes. He tries to get his childhood crush, Jena, to like him. He ends up dating her best friend instead. His wishes come true, but they do so with side effects. Nothing is ever straightforward, every wish changes something in an erratic way, until it all blows way out of hand in a way I never expected.I didn't like anyone in the book. Ephraim is sympathetic, but he's just not a likeable character. There's just a quality about him I found slightly off-putting, which is something strange to say about a character in a book, I know. Jena also didn't have much personality, as much as Ephraim likes her, as much as I want to like her. She's just the unattainable dream girl that Ephraim somehow wound up getting through impure means. She's cute, she's very smart, she's half-Asian, she's geeky. All good and well but she has no personality to me. Neither do the unfortunately named twins, Mary and Shelley.Now...one character I actually hated was Nathan. Nathan and Ephraim have been best friends since practically toddlerdom. You could say birds of a feather flock together, and they are both the outcasts of school, but while Ephraim is a genuinely nice guy, Nathan is a disgusting creep. You know those guys who surreptitiously take pictures of girls in tight clothes and yoga pants and post them on sites? Yeah, Nathan is like that. He's got his disgusting little camera, he takes pictures of girls, he talks smack about copping a feel, all the while just incomprehensibly mourning the fact that nobody likes him. I wonder why..."It wasn't a nude, but it might as well have been. At first all Ephraim noticed were breasts in a tight white tank top, wet through to show the dark circles of the woman's nipples. Then he checked out her face. It was Jena.'What?' Ephraim said. He took a breath. 'Where did you get this? That's…you stuck her head on a model's body!''Magicians never reveal their secrets. But yeah, I've been practicing with Photoshop.'"Ugh, ugh, ugh.The plot was good, and interesting, very very very fast-paced throughout the first half of the novel. It was good at first, not confusing, somewhat easy to see where things were leading even if the reader couldn't guess the unpredictable outcomes of the wishes...then, halfway through the book. BAM. I didn't see that coming, I didn't like it, I was right. I was confused and left wishing I had read something nice and fun and simple, like The Elegant Universe instead.