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Mind Games by Kiersen White (2012)
Mind Games (2012)
by Kiersten White
Paperback ARC (Thank you, The YA Bookcase!)
Publication Date: February 19th, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Buy a copy via Amazon.
Synopsis from Goodreads.

UK, Australia, and New Zealand Cover:

I want that cover!

Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future. Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey. In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

My Thoughts:
Did I hear “heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller”? Because I want in. Mind Games is a refreshing addition to the YA genre, especially when psychological thrillers is often exclusive to adult fiction. White delivered a interesting plot and a fierce female character (albeit she stole the the spotlight from everyone else) all in a fast-paced two-hundred page novel. We’ve seen all the elements before from crazy training schools (Ender’s Game, Insignia, Variant, The Vindico) to exploiting psychic abilities (Minority Report), but White takes these elements and weaves something her own. Unfortunately, despite the compelling premise, the delivery fell short, leaving much to be desired.

Poor Organization: I Usually Like Multiple Perspectives, Shifting Timelines and Fia Stealing The Whole Show
Fia and her older sister, Annie, both speak to us in first person. While usually perspectives alternate, Mind Games didn’t follow a specific pattern: there might be a present Annie chapter directly preceding a 18 month ago Annie chapter. Eventually I gave up trying to do the math to figure out the chronological order between chapters. I often had to flip back to the start of the chapter to find out why a character supposedly imprisoned in the last chapter could be roaming free in the next. I know chapters from the past aid in giving backstory, but the sudden transition confused rather than enlightened. Many times, I didn’t care what mundane stuff happened in the distant past, I want to get back to my “intense psychological thriller” already!

Another problem with the multiple perspectives was that Fia stole the show. From the start of the novel, she establishes herself as a femme fatale who is not afraid to lie and break a few bones to get what she wants. She is manipulative and cunning. After the first chapter, I was sold. But then I found out, Fia wasn’t the only voice of the novel. Annie, Fia’s older sister is radically different from Fia, she’s the calm, reserved one. She basically sat around being emo. *yawn*

Writing Style:
White’s writing didn’t do it for me. I’m not sure if it’s because this espionage training school forgot proper English lessons so neither character sound eloquent, or if both characters are too screwed up. Both characters speak in a stream of consciousness. From the writing, we can feel the sister’s troubled state of mind, especially Fia’s. I thought I was supposed to feel fear, frustration, and hurt from Fia, but I just kept thinking she was high on drugs. Her terse sentences and repetitions were meant for emphasis, and perhaps to imitate the impulsive, conflicted, uneditted human consciousness that characterizes Fia, but it wasn’t long before I grew exhausted with those short sentences. There was not enough contrast between the two sisters’ voices.

Action Scene Writing is Hard Stuff
Fia’s passages are distinct from Annie’s primarily due to her action scenes. I found it odd that her action scenes are the few moments when Fia turns “eloquent” (or her sentences turn long), but not in a good way. Her sentences turn into lists of action after action, then some other action. I kept wishing for sensory details to bring me into the scene. I admit I rarely come across action scenes that actually work in writing without sounding like a list but because of the rigid, un-varied nature of these sentences, they felt jarring–I didn’t believe for a second it was Fia recalling the moment, but a third-person narrator giving me a summary of what he saw Cat Woman do in a movie. These action scenes drove the novel, but unfortunately, they were also the weakest parts.

The Emotions
I was not convinced. From romance to sisterly love, all of it was forced. The romance was borderline random; I had no reason to care for either prospective lover.
As for sisterly love, Fia and Annie are supposed to care deeply for each other, sacrificing and taking care of each other when they have nobody else. But I don’t know what bonds them together at all. For most of the novel, they have no interaction (Annie misses Fia holding her hand) aside a few secret whispers here and there. I felt not warmth from these two. Only betrayal, negligence, and jealously.

So..What is This Story About Again?
There are so many subplots going on that aren’t adequately explained that I really can’t tell you what’s going on. We have two sisters enrolled in a suspicious school run by a mysterious guy. That mysterious guy’s sexy son is trying to overthrow his father. To overthrow his father, he “trains” Fia. This sexy guy is not to be trusted, but Fia likes him so she helps him overthrow his father. Somehow the president is involved in the school. There’s a nice doctor who’s saved by Fia and randomly reappears. There’s a society going against the school (they have the weirdest logic where they kidnap people only to let them out the font door) On top of that, the sisters need to get their relationship sorted out. Yep, I’m lost. Too many random faucets are opened all at once, and we are still at square one trying to answer questions and figuring out why I need to care. I CAN’T KEEP UP.

Fia has…Perfect Instincts?
I am not sure what having perfect instincts entail, but that’s Fia’s special power and what makes her so valuable. Is it just keen perception? I find it weird that she can just pick the best selling stocks. Those things have nothing to do with gut feeling. Apparently her instincts also allow her to ace multiple choice tests. WHAT??!?!

Plot Twist:
Meh. I suspected it.

Overall, I appreciated the unique concept and the fast-paced kept me reading, but execution is far from perfect. This is one of the messiest books I’ve come across, with way too many subplots, confusing transitions, and no answers.

Rating: C-