Before we disappear

Shaun David Hutchinson

Book - 2021

Fifteen-year-old Jack and sixteen-year-old Wilhelm, assistants to--and captives of--rival magicians, fall in love against the backdrop of Seattle's 1908 world's fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.

Saved in:

Young Adult Area Show me where

1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
Young Adult Area YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Hutchins Shaun Checked In
Romance fiction
Fantasy fiction
Historical fiction
Young adult fiction
New York, NY : HarperTeen [2021]
Main Author
Shaun David Hutchinson (author)
First edition
Physical Description
492 pages ; 21 cm
Ages 14 up.
Grades 10-12.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Imagine Jack and Wilhelm, two 16-year-old magician's assistants, who meet at the 1909 Seattle World's Fair and fall in love. The two boys come from similarly unsettled backgrounds: Jack is an orphan, rescued at age seven from life on the streets by the illusionist Evangeline. Wilhelm is similarly parentless, having been kidnapped when he was four by the wicked Teddy, aka the magician Laszlo. Teddy has kept Wil captive in the years since his kidnapping because Wil has an otherworldly talent: he can move things and people with his mind, a talent Teddy has used to commit countless burglaries. Now he plans to use Wil's power to execute a seemingly impossible theft at the World's Fair. Jack pleads with Wil to escape with him but Wil refuses, desperately afraid that Teddy will hurt Jack; he's already murdered two of Wil's friends. Could Jack be next? Hutchinson's engaging historical fantasy suffers from the occasional implausibility and loose end, buts its strength lies in the captivating relationship between Jack and Wil. Now there's real magic.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The 1908 Alaska-Pacific-Yukon Exposition draws performers, entrepreneurs, and frauds to Seattle, and white 16-year-olds Jack Nevin and Wilhelm Gessler work for people who qualify on all accounts. Jack's boss, a magician and serial defrauder who calls herself Evangeline, took him in when he was seven; now her assistant, Jack's an expert pickpocket with an eye for money-making opportunities. Wil, taken from his family at age four by a sadistic thief calling himself Laszlo, is exploited as part of a magic show for his ability to travel invisibly. In alternating chapters, Jack and Wil narrate the story of becoming acquaintances, friends, and more, but their affection and freedom become highly risky as Laszlo monitors Wil constantly, even caging him. To pursue their future, the duo create an elaborate scheme, aided by all their friends. The world-building can feel bulky, slowing the book's pace, but can-do, brave Jack and Wil--burdened by guilt, fear, and the likelihood that loving him will endanger Jack--make a sweet couple. Hutchinson's (A Complicated Love Story Set in Space) novel has an intriguing setup and historical milieu, and the final trick, which relies on magic, fraud, planning, and friendship, makes for a bravado ending. Ages 14--up. Agent: Katie Shea Boutillier, Donald Maass Literary. (Sept.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--Jack and Wilhelm, the teenage protagonists of this dual narrative, have a lot in common. They are both wards of conniving adults, have unique talents that their guardians manipulate for their own benefits, and are currently working as magician's assistants at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, a World's Fair that really took place in Seattle in 1909. Jack's guardian, The Enchantress, is a gifted magician who uses Jack's skills at showmanship and sleight-of-hand, respectively, to perform--and steal--amazing illusions. Wilhelm's guardian, Teddy, kidnapped him years ago when he discovered Wil's talent for Traveling: spontaneously transporting himself or others to spaces far away. Teddy comes to the Expo disguised as a gifted magician who seems to have particularly nefarious plans, though of what, Wil is unsure. As their lives become intertwined, Jack and Wil fall in love, and Jack plots to free Wil of Teddy's clutches. Interesting subplots include Jack's surrogate sister's pursuit of respect from The Enchantress, the sweet love story between Jack's friend Ruth and Teddy's assistant Jessamy, and The Enchantress's and Teddy's attempts to swindle rich paramours out of their money. In the final act, all of these subplots convene for a show-stopping magic show. Hutchinson's detailed historical research is evident; the Expo is so lively that it almost feels like a character of its own. An author's note describes Hutchinson's process, including his choice to celebrate queer joy despite the historical inaccuracies. Ruth is Black, and all other major characters are white. VERDICT A lovely, fun, rollicking book that belongs in every library serving teens.--Shira Pilarski

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

Teenage magicians' assistants Wilhelm and Jack find themselves at odds during the 1909 World's Fair in Seattle when their bosses, Teddy and the Enchantress, become bitter rivals. Earnest bookworm Wilhelm is the victim of terrible abuse at the hands of ambitious and conniving Teddy, who exploits Wilhelm's ability to travel short distances by magic, first involving him in a life of bank-robbing and then using him to gain fame. Orphaned Jack's relationship with the Enchantress takes a different form of mistreatment: she'd rescued him when he was younger and manipulates his emotions to make him feel obligated to her forever, preventing him from living a life of his own. When Jack and Wilhelm fall in love, they must decide what they are willing to risk for a future together. Palpable chemistry between the two main characters drives the plot, and a diverse cast of secondary characters adds humor and zest. Most impressive are the contrasting layers of villainy depicted in Teddy and the Enchantress: one an obvious brute, and the other more nuanced in her cruelty. Fans of historical fiction, fantasy, and slow-burn romance will find Jack and Wilhelm's story truly...magical. Sarah Berman November/December 2021 p.103(c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

When magic and illusion collide, anything is possible. Sixteen-year-old Jack, magician's assistant and pickpocket, is ready to steal the show--and anything else he can get his hands on--when the Enchantress, aka Evangeline Dubois, magician, con artist, and his guardian, sets her eyes on the 1909 Seattle World's Fair. At the same time, 16-year-old Wilhelm, a boy with the ability to magically transport himself and others, is forced to perform there by Teddy, his abusive captor. Teddy has plans to use Wil's gifts to pull off the ultimate heist, and his desire for notoriety results in a plan in which the two masquerade as a magician and his assistant, causing Jack's and Wil's worlds to collide. With the help of street-smart dancer Ruth and clever Jessamy, the boys examine the abuses they suffer and work to build a stable life together. Like all good magic acts, the novel will keep readers on the edges of their seats as they follow the twists and double-crosses that fill the lives of con artists and magicians. The book flawlessly combines magic and suspense in a well-crafted heist story that's sweetly sprinkled with queer romances. A final unanswered question hints at a sequel and will have readers shouting for an encore. Ruth is Black; all other main characters are White. Jack, Wil, Ruth, and Jessamy are openly queer. A delight. (author's note) (Historical fantasy. 12-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.