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Released: September 28th 2021
Genre: Young Adult
Published by HarperTeen
“I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of magic, found family stories, and lovable characters you want to root for from the very first page.”~ Under the Covers
Before We Disappear by Shaun David Hutchinson is a magical story filled with illusions, misdirection, and pure awesomeness. The book is similar in style to the movie The Prestige but focuses on the magician’s assistants rather than the magicians themselves.
Jack is Evangeline’s assistant. While she soaks up the applause on stage, he is the brains working behind the curtain. Her most famous illusions? He broke down her rival’s performances and improved upon them. On the other side of the story, there is Wilhelm the unwilling accomplice to his kidnapper Teddy’s schemes. Teddy is determined to make his mark on the world and pull off impossible thefts with the use of Wil’s gift of “Transporting”. After the announcement of the Exposition, both magicians set their sights on the stage in Seattle to make sure no one ever forgets the names of “The Enchantress” or “Lazlo”.
I loved the characters in this book. The relationship between Wilhelm and Jack was adorable (especially Wilhelm’s innocence due to the years of captivity), but their romance kind of came out of nowhere. Their feelings seemed to be more of companionship or friendship rather than “you’re the love of my life”. The setting of the story is the 1909 Seattle Exposition but I was never really invested in the “where” of the story. I ended up imagining something more akin to the expo in Iron Man 2 than something from 100 years ago. It’s obvious the author did a lot of research to make the setting feel as authentic as possible. I simply struggled to connect to the historical aspect.
Both of the magicians in this story are performers, but I felt that Evangeline was the one with actual talent and skill (despite stealing tricks from others and taking credit from her assistants). All of the major performances that Teddy does rely on Wilhelm’s gift. Regardless of their abilities on stage, they are both TERRIBLE people. Both are abusive to their assistants (in different ways). Evangeline takes advantage of Jack by preying on his gratitude for saving him from the streets and constantly demeaning him. Teddy has beaten fear and submission into Wilhelm and keeps him from running away at night by chaining his ankle while he sleeps.
The ending of the book was very satisfying. Although this is standalone, it would be cool to have another novel set in the same universe that focuses on what Evangeline and Lucia end up doing after the events of Before We Disappear. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of magic, found family stories, and lovable characters you want to root for from the very first page.
Trigger Warnings: Physical abuse, Emotional abuse, Kidnapping, Racism, Homophobia
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