Sunday, February 6, 2022

"Mercury Boys"

Chandra Prasad is the author of the critically acclaimed novels On Borrowed Wings, Death of a Circus, Breathe the Sky, and Damselfly, a female-driven young adult text used in classrooms in parallel with Lord of the Flies. She is also the editor of—and a contributor to—Mixed, the first-ever anthology of short stories on the multiracial experience.

Prasad applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Mercury Boys, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Who knows? They’re tormented. Star-crossed. Like Romeo and Juliet without the suicide.”

“God, I’m so embarrassed.”


“You know why.”

“Hey, what’s done is done. And it’s not like Paige ever has to know.”

Saskia smiled ruefully. Just knowing Lila understood made her feel a little better.

As they finished up their food, her phone beeped. Another harried text from her father, probably, or maybe her mother checking in. Then again, why would her mother think about her in the middle of the night? She was probably cuddling in bed with Ralph. Saskia tossed the cell into the back seat.

“Listen,” Lila said, “from now on if we’re at a party or whatever, we tell each other what’s going on. Everything. No secrets. Deal?”

She stuck out her hand to shake on it.

Saskia thought, This must be what growing up is all about: discovering that people aren’t always what they seem. Realizing that someone you’ve loved your whole life doesn’t love you back, and that the bond you have with a new friend is a hundred times stronger than the frayed and unraveling one you left behind.

She took Lila’s hand in her own and held it fast. She felt almost shy meeting Lila’s eyes. “Deal,” she replied.
This page of Mercury Boys does indeed pass the Page 69 Test. (Incidentally, I suspect there is some magic, voodoo, or witchcraft associated with the Page 69 Test because I tried it on my other books and it works unnervingly well). In this excerpt, we briefly meet the novel’s main character, Saskia Brown, who has just moved to a New England town, and her new friend, Lila. The girls are talking about how Saskia hooked up with a high school classmate, Josh, and about how, unbeknownst to Saskia, he has an on-and-off relationship with another one of their friends, Paige. Upon finding out that she has broken “girl code,” Saskia is wracked with guilt.

This situation would normally qualify as typical high school drama. But in Mercury Boys Saskia’s tryst has far-reaching and very dark implications. From cruel initiations to mind games, drug use to strange encounters with people in old photographs, many of the novel’s more disturbing elements are at least tangentially related to Saskia’s error in judgment.

In addition, Saskia’s realization about growing up (in italics) is significant. Throughout the novel she will need to decide which family members and close friends to trust and which to winnow from her life. Her thinking on this page foreshadows these complicated decisions and her inevitable coming-of-age.

Finally, I always liked Lila’s pithy description of Paige and Josh: “They’re tormented. Star-crossed. Like Romeo and Juliet without the suicide.” So I was happy to see that it happened to land on page 69. Coincidence…or magic?
Visit Chandra Prasad's website.

The Page 69 Test: On Borrowed Wings.

--Marshal Zeringue