Friday, September 5, 2014

What we're reading: Drama + ESP

Don't Even Think About It, by Sara Mlynowski

How would you describe this book? Gossip Girls meets paranormal fiction? Some New York high school sophomores get their annual flu shot, and apparently it's a bad batch with an unexpected outcome: A day later, they can read minds. The phenomenon has a few limitations--they have to be in pretty close proximity, and you can block them by putting somebody else's head (or a wall) between you--but otherwise, everyone's thoughts--including each others', of course--are open to them.

It's a great title, and a fun idea--think of all the possibilities! If you could read the minds of those around you, what would you do? How would you use your special powers? (and would you use them for good or evil???) But...although the story was cute and fun, and using the side effects from vaccinations was a clever premise (given all the stuff in the news about this), it was also predictable, and a little bit silly. It's not a bad book, could have been a lot better.

First of all, these characters are supposed to be in high school, but a lot of their interactions and dialogue read more like immature middle schoolers (especially considering they are New York high-schoolers, presumably more sophisticated than most), so the voices didn't ring true for me.

Second, they are all so completely self-obsessed!!! Nothing intrudes into their worlds other than their own singular angsty drama. Granted, having ESP would take some getting used to, some settling in, some probing of the boundaries, but…we never see them out in the world reacting to the thoughts of non-related others--it's all about themselves. Does he like me? Oh no, now I know for sure. Are they judging me? No, I'm not even on their radar, which makes me happy and sad at the same time. Oh boy, if I sit next to the smart guy, I can get all the right answers on the test! Wow! It would have made the phenomenon much more interesting if they had, say, encountered and outed people with nefarious plans, or eavesdropped on the local politico to see if he was sincere or something.

Perhaps (I would really like this) the author has plans to broaden the canvas in the sequel? These characters would be a lot more interesting as telepathic crime-fighters (in their after-school hours), for instance, than they are as the insular gossip-obsessed clique we saw in this book. I'll check back when/if it comes out.

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