By Jennifer Jabaley
Available now from Razorbill (Penguin)
The beginning of CRUSH CONTROL is winning. Willow returns to her hometown after years as her mother's assistant in Vegas. She knows how to hypnotize a crowd, but not how to interact with people her own age. And she desperately wants to fit in, because her hometown contains Max, the boy she stayed in touch with and secretly crushes on. The boy she hypnotized to be her best friend forever.
Then Willow meets Quinton, who is hot, available, intelligent, and athletic. Perhaps there are other guys out there. She also makes two good friends who have her back in all things romantic: TV addict Georgia and cheerleader Mia. Just when things are coming up Milhouse, Willow starts to use her rudimentary knowledge of hypnotism on her peers without thinking about the consequences.
To this point, I devoured CRUSH CONTROL. Seriously, I got through the first half in thirty minutes or less. Then the story becomes very conventional and Willow misplaces her brain. No really. She starts trusting in e-order witchcraft to solve her problems. Even that is not as frustrating as knowing where everything is going. You know how Quinton's condition will go wrong. You know how Mia's requests will go wrong. Jennifer Jabaley's voice is charming, but not enough to overcome the thin plot. (Nor is it enough to make the final plot twist anything other than lame. Max really needed more to do during the story.)
Strangely, I cannot remember anything in the first half that was noticeably unconventional. I think there was the potential for a more unusual story. Part of the problem is that Willow is the only dynamic character. Her mom and grandmother reconcile, but they're still the same people as when the story began.
CRUSH CONTROL is excellent summer reading. It's a book to sit back with and have a few laughs. There's nothing more to it than that. It could be any of a million beach books. But for a moment, I thought it might be something more rare.