Fair Coin

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Fair Coin Book Poster Image
Fast-paced sci-fi adventure with magic wish-granting coin.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fair Coin at first seems to be a fantasy adventure, but gradually reveals itself as science fiction novel, based on the multi-world theory of quantum physics.

Positive Messages

In Fair Coin, Ephraim Scott quickly learns that having your wishes come true doesn't necessarily mean that your problems are solved --  it might even compound them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ephraim Scott, the 16-year-old protagonist of Fair Coin, has serious problems at home: an alcoholic, barely employed mother, and an absent father. He's basically a decent kid, though, until he's tempted by a seemingly magical coin that grants his wish whenever he flips it. Gradually, he sees that his wishes have consequences for other people, and he decides to face his problems head-on.

Violence

There is a fair amount of violence -- a couple of fistfights, a couple of violent scenes that end in death, and three mysterious murders -- in Fair Coin, although much of the mayhem is referred to, rather than depicted directly. The exception is a shocking fatal shooting that's more emotionally wrenching than bloody.

Sex

Across the various realities Eph visits in Fair Coin, he encounters differing levels of sexual activity among his alternate selves and their friends. At home, he only has a crush on his classmate Jena, but it's made clear that Eph and his girlfriend Zoe in another reality have a fully physical relationship. Another character, who is awkward and immature in one universe, is sexual active, and perhaps even sexually abusive, in another. In general, the more intimate aspects of these relationships are not depicted. There are a couple of jokes about porn and masturbation.

Language

There is some profanity in Fair Coin, but not to excess. "S--t" and "f--k" are used as expletives in a few moments of emotional turmoil. Mention is made, once or twice, to girl's "t-ts."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ephraim's mother is an alcoholic and a smoker, who attempts suicide with liquor and pills in the first scene of the novel. A couple of the alternate versions of Ephraim indulge in underage drinking. These behaviors are not portrayed positively.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fair Coin is a fast-paced science fantasy adventure that becomes trickier and more engaging as the plot -- which involves alternate universes -- plays itself out. There's a small amount of profanity, a couple of fistfights, a couple of violent scenes that end in death, and three mysterious murders -- although much of the mayhem is referred to, rather than depicted directly. The exception is a shocking fatal shooting that happens in front of Ephraim. There's some discussion, though no actual depiction, of teen sexual activity.

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What's the story?

Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott comes home from school to discover that his mother has attempted suicide because she believes that he has been killed in a bus accident. After the body in question disappears from the morgue, Eph finds a mysterious coin that seems to grant his wishes whenever he flips it. But the more he tries to fix things, the worse the situation becomes, until he finds himself pursued across an infinitude of alternate universes.

Is it any good?

FAIR COIN is a well-constructed, fast-paced science-fiction adventure that starts with an interesting premise and expands it into something even more complex and affecting. Author E.C. Myers does an excellent job of capturing the voices and concerns of his cast of teen characters, grounding the narrative in genuine emotion and behavior while executing some very skillful plotting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Fair Coin demonstrates the danger in putting your own wishes and ambitions ahead of everyone else's.

  • Why are stories about things with magical wish-granting properties so popular? What other stories/novels/movies use this plot device?

  • What are positive ways of helping a parent who is struggling with alcoholism?

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