Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mind Games

I liked the premise of Kiersten White's young adult novel Mind Games. You don't see a lot of novels that focus on sisterly relationships, and while an almost-love-triangle exists in this book, it's not the primary emphasis. In fact, though there's room for romance to develop in future books, you could really say this book isn't a romance at all. It's more of a science fiction thriller and character study at the same time. Though one genre seems fast-paced and the other slow, they meld together pretty well.

Both Fia and Annie narrate the story, but the book is more about Fia, the girl with instincts so good she can almost never choose wrong, the girl who could be a weapon in the wrong hands. And, man, is Fia ever in the wrong hands. Her handler is a boy who she knows is bad and dangerous but who she wants to fall in love with anyway. He, in turn, is the son of an even more dangerous and mysterious man who collects women like Fia and Annie in order to control and use their special mind powers. Most of these women are Seers, seeing the future (like Annie), or Readers, reading minds, or Feelers, feeling emotions. Fia is none of that. She calls herself the hands. With special training and perfect instincts, she is the most dangerous of them all, a killer. And she has to remain a killer if she wants her sister to live.

The dynamics of the relationship between Fia and Annie are what this book is all about, but personally, I didn't really take to Annie. I can't say I loved Fia either, with her obsessive, angry thoughts and stream-of-consciousness narration, but she is clearly the character the author wants you to care most about...not that the reader isn't supposed to care about Annie. The reader is supposed to care about what Fia thinks of Annie, and Fia will do anything to protect her older, blind sister.

The book took longer than some young adult fiction takes me to get through, probably due to switching narrators but also due to flashbacks. That's why I said the story was part character study. We get a lot of background on Fia and Annie leading up to the present. It's an interesting way to tell a story. We get thrown right into the action, and then slowly, the specifics unwind. Interesting, yes, but I didn't love the way the story was told.

Still, having said that, what I really did enjoy was the concept of an unwilling human weapon. My husband can tell you that I love stories with powerful female protagonists. Under very different circumstances, I could have been a feminist, I'm sure. I love to see girls kick butt, and I'm a second degree black belt myself. But I also find it intriguing when a girl is powerful yet doesn't want to be. It provides for fascinating internal struggle, and in this case, it raises a lot of moral questions, too. How do you do detestable things to protect a loved one and still save your own soul? I wish there was a little more about that particular question in the book, but Fia is beyond believing she has a soul to save. Her hopelessness is understandable in light of the story, but it gets a little depressing. I do, however, like the way this first book of the series resolves itself, and I hope there is some interesting moral exploration in the books to come; the set-up is certainly perfect for it.

Three stars.

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