Study Guide

The Alchemyst Youth

By Michael Scott


Adults, Sophie had decided a long time before, were really bad at making up excuses. (4.8)

Adults! Aren't they the worst? Just kidding. But still, this "us" versus "them" battle between kids and adults is a common theme in a lot of young adult literature, and you can't really blame Sophie for her distrust. Her parents aren't around to support her in her all too important teen years.

"There is something else, though, isn't there?" Sophie asked quickly. "Something more." She knew he was holding something back; adults always did. Their parents had taken months to tell Josh and her that they would be spending the summer in San Francisco. (4.46)

This is a sad glimpse into the family life of Sophie and Josh. Their parents don't seem to care whether or not the kids are in the loop, and unfortunately that leaves Sophie and Josh to make their own decisions, without much guidance on the home front. We wonder what their parents might say now that their two kids are off risking their lives to save the world. Would they be proud? Worried? Or just plain indifferent?

He was a normal high school sophomore, not too brilliant, but not stupid either. He played football, sang—badly—in his friend's band, had a few girls he was interested in, but no real girlfriend yet. He played the occasional computer game, preferred first-person shooters like Quake and Doom and Unreal Tournament, couldn't handle the driving games and got lost in Myst. […] He even liked the new Superman, despite what other people said. Josh was ordinary. (5.13)

Magical twins of prophecy—they're just like us! What really stands out to Shmoop in this passage is how young Josh seems. He's up for simple pleasures like football and video games. He hardly seems ready to fight evil with magical powers.

Josh always said that their parents lived five million years in the past and were only happy when they were up to their ankles in mud. The twins knew that they were loved unconditionally, but they also knew that their parents simply didn't understand them […] or much else about modern life. (8.24)

Even though, in many ways, Josh and Sophie seem quite young (after all, they're only fifteen), in many ways, they're mature beyond their years. Because their parents are always busy with their noses in the dirt, digging for dino bones, Sophie and Josh have had to fend for themselves. They even got themselves jobs to pay for their own car. That's pretty impressive.

The twins looked at one another, suddenly uncertain. This was just a little too weird, and there was something in Scathach's lack of expression that was frightening. Sophie's eyes suddenly widened in shock. "I just realized that both of those people, Joan of Arc and Tutankhamen, died young."

"Very young," Josh said, sobering, recalling his history. "They both died when they were nineteen."

"Yes, they did, didn't they?" Scathach agreed, turning away to look at Nicholas Flamel and the Goddess of the Three Faces. (14.72-74)

Uh oh. We hope this is not foreshadowing for Sophie and Josh's sake.

"Is he always like this?" Scatty asked.

"Like what?" Sophie asked.

"Foolish, ill-advised, reckless...? Shall I go on?"

"No need. And yes, he's usually like this. Sometimes worse." When they were growing up, she used to tease Josh that he got all the "doing" genes, whereas she got all the "thinking" genes. (22.5-8)

Foolish? Ill-advised? Reckless? Sounds familiar, right? These words are often used to describe teens, and whether or not they're accurate is for another discussion. What we're interested in here is how this passage subtly points out the (small) difference in age between the twins. Sophie, the older sister, seems level-headed and cool-tempered. Josh, who's a whopping twenty-eight seconds younger than his sister, is impulsive, to say the least. Their different personalities are an exaggeration of their different ages.

In time Josh had come to think of Fleming as the older brother he always wished he had. And now that man had betrayed him. (30.18)

We're betting Josh looked up to Flamel so much because he doesn't really have much of a father figure in his life. That makes it all the more painful that Flamel has now endangered the twins. A trusted adult becomes something quite different, and Josh is left reeling. Frankly, this poor kid could really use his dad right about now.

"You know, I'm not a kid," Josh said, his voice rising, "so don't talk to me like one." (22.21)

Cool your jets, Josh. In many ways, he is still a kid; he's only fifteen, remember. But in many other ways, Josh is not a kid at all. After all, he and his sister have a ton of power, and that means they'll have to grow up fast. If they haven't already.

"You are mistaken," Bastet hissed. "My niece is Next-Generation, she hasn't got the powers." (32.15)

Apparently, older characters doubt younger characters' abilities even in the supernatural realm. Bastet diminishes her niece's powers just because she is younger, but we soon find out that the Morrigan is more powerful than Bastet can imagine.

Dee shoved his hands in the pockets of his ruined leather coat and set off down the narrow path. He hated it when they did that, dismissed him as if he were nothing more than a child. (32.46)

We think it's hilarious to see a dangerous, 500-year-old magician pout like a little kid. Age is relative, it seems, because although Dee is older than Sophie and Josh, he is centuries, and even millennia, younger than the gods and goddesses he interacts with. Because of his youth, he still gets no respect.