I’ve been a huge fan of Will McIntosh’s since I picked up his debut, Soft Apocalypse, and since then, he’s turned out fantastic novel after fantastic novel. In his latest, he turns a bizarre situation into a fast-paced YA adventure that doesn’t disappoint.

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While I love McIntosh’s books, every time he comes out with a new book, I always think to myself: “there’s no way this premise will be any good, it’s just too out there.” Hitchers featured spirits who came back and attached themselves to the living, and one cartoonist was inhabited by his cranky grandfather. Humanity came to regret some of its decisions in Defenders after Earth is invaded, and Love Minus Eighty was a cryogenic love story. I need to stop thinking like that, because every book has turned out to be exceptionally good, and Burning Midnight is no exception.

In it, brightly colored spheres turn up across the world. With a pair, you can gain new abilities when you touch them to your temples - burning the spheres. Each color imparts a new ability: some let you sing, others give you an extra inch of height. Others include perfect teeth, a better sense of humor, quicker motor skills, healing powers, and so forth.

A market emerges for spheres. They’re hidden throughout the world, and some colors are rarer than others. One teenager, David Sullivan, makes some money buying and selling spheres, marking them up and hoping to find a rare one that’ll help him pull himself and his mother out of poverty. When he meets Hunter, a girl who searches for spheres, they discover one of the rarest ones of all, and with powerful people after them to take them, they have to move quickly to stay ahead in the game.

McIntosh has set up a crazy plot, and pulls it off with this excellent novel. It’s fast, filled with vibrant characters, and drives into places that I’d never have expected.

There’s some astute observations here that McIntosh picks apart. Spheres are these strange, unknown things that grant people abilities, and everyone overlooks their origins and any possible consequences. The culture that emerges out of this world is uncannily like that of the technology sector, with everyone trying to get in on the game, but with only a few select, cunning individuals really coming out on top. By the end, the consequences are pretty high.

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At the heart of this story is Sully, Hunter and their friends, who come together to figure out how to strike it rich, and to save the world. McIntosh has always excelled at characters, and this book reminded me the most of his debut, Soft Apocalypse: a group of teenagers trying to make their way against the world. This is prime YA territory, and the end result is a fantastic novel about friendship against the odds.

Burning Midnight is out in stores on February 2nd.