First in a series
By Kiersten White
Available now from HarperTeen (HarperCollins)
I've never read Kiersten White's popular Paranormalcy series, but I wanted to read MIND GAMES based on her reputation as well as the interesting premise. Fia and Annie are two sisters who will do anything for each other and that's their downfall.
In the world of MIND GAMES, there are some women with psychic abilities. Annie is a Seer - one of the few who can begin to predict Fia's actions. There isn't a name for Fia, but she has an amazingly accurate intuition. They've fallen into the hands of an evil organization that trained Fia as an assassin and keep Annie hostage to ensure she follows orders. Then Fia decides to save nineteen-year-old Adam because he helps a puppy right before she's supposed to kill him.
MIND GAMES alternates between Fia and Annie's point of view. This helps puzzle together various characters' motivations and plans, because the two girls are rarely allowed to communicate. Therefore, they each have a totally different idea of what is happening. Often, they end up messing up each other's plans for freedom because they don't even know if the other is planning something. Annie's chapters are told in a straightforward manner, but Fia's voice might annoy some readers. She's been damaged by her childhood, and often repeats phrases and does things without thinking about them first. Think River Tam from Firefly-style crazy, rather than any real world mental illness.
A lot of MIND GAMES worked for me. I liked the slow reveal of the evil conspiracy and how it managed to get a hold of the sisters. I liked how the story reveals that Fia might have killed three people, but she's definitely not a cold-blooded assassin. I liked James - the son of the man behind the conspiracy - and his relationship with the sisters. He's bad news, and both girls know it, but Fia feels an affinity with him.
Adam, on the other hand, is almost completely extraneous. He's supposedly important, but he gets shuffled to the side for flashbacks and such. I wouldn't call it insta-love, but Fia is attracted to him and instantly concerned about his safety and well-being for no real reason. When he keeps dropping out of the narrative, it's hard to care much about him. I suppose he (and his research) could be more important in the next book, but he felt like a footnote who kept being treated as a main character the few times he actually showed up.
I wouldn't call MIND GAMES a thriller though that is how it is being branded. It's a bit too meandering to be a thriller. The structure was interesting and useful to understanding the characters, but it sometimes killed the pace. After all, we know that the boarding school is sinister from the start considering the present, so the flashbacks to Fia and Annie figuring it out are pretty useless, aside from showing that Annie can be dense.
Aside from that, MIND GAMES just doesn't feel very developed. Annie and Fia are developed as characters, but the world feels half-formed. Why are only women psychic? Why is Adam, a student, the first person to really notice anything? What happened to the aunt? Why aren't there more consequences from James' drunken confessions? Keane is very sinister because he's awful to the women under his control, but he's much lamer than he should be. There's no hint of his plan and thus no raising of the stakes. An evil conspiracy should threaten something!
I read MIND GAMES quickly, and enjoyed it quite a bit, but when I finished I felt disappointed. MIND GAMES has some interesting ideas, but it never does anything with them.