GENRE(S): Science Fiction, Romance
AUDIENCE: Young Adult
COVER DESIGN: Mike Sunseri
Star swimmer Lexi Matthews has a secret that she keeps from everyone, including her father. She has the ability to influence people’s thoughts. As the daughter of a famous and controversial geneticist, Lexi has long been required to keep her true identity hidden from her boarding school friends. The arrival of a new student, Jack DeWeese, who has his own set of unique abilities and seems to know all about Lexi, the disappearance of Lexi’s father, and a series of threatening emails and events force Lexi to start to decipher the truth regarding her past, while trying to stay one step ahead of her enemies – some of whom seem to be able to enter her mind. She is both drawn to and scared of Jack – his abilities, charm, claims of knowledge regarding her father, and seeming devotion to her. But is Jack who he says he is, and what does he know?
The plot was intricately woven with a careful well-paced reveal of who is good, who is bad, and who is somewhere in between. At no point were the twists and turns that led to the conclusion predictable. There was great skill in the placement of characters and information. Almost nobody and nothing is irrelevant to the plot. Characters who seemed to be extras early on are in fact not, and secrets are divulged in a satisfying manner, leaving the reader to understand the trail of clues that had been threaded through the narrative from page one.
The main characters were well drawn and likable. Jack and Lexi’s push and pull relationship and Lexi’s determined independence, vulnerability and strength were refreshing in light of some other YA novels in which the heroine fails to maintain sufficient agency. Lexi remains a central player in her own story, and although she is rescued by Jack sometimes, she also eschews his help on other occasions, and sets off on her own seeking answers with both good and bad results.
The truly bad characters and their motivations perhaps could be better drawn, and at this point remain somewhat like caricatures, but Sunseri will have the opportunity to do so in future books in the series. There was also, at times, a little bit too much lengthy dialogue between Jack and Lexi, rather than action, or interactions with other characters. But given that this novel focused on the development of Lexi and Jack’s relationship, perhaps more conversation was warranted, and the other great characters will be developed further in future novels in the series.
Mindspeak was surprising, captivating, and original. The prose is in general crisp and flawless, and the plot is well-paced and exciting. Lexi, Jack, and their supporting cast of friends are hip and fun, while also coming across as strong and admirable. Mindspeak explores some interesting questions on a scientific front, but remains appealing for the YA reader wanting romance, adventure and believable characters. This is true YA though, so adult readers who do not appreciate YA may not find a fit. Readers who like smart heroines, sexy but respectful heroes and lots of intrigue should give Mindspeak a try.
Five stars. Mindspeak was a super fun read and sets up a great premise and group of characters for the remainder of the series.
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Jennifer Ellis is the author of A Pair of Docks, a fantasy adventure for kids and adults that explores the meaning of time and the boundary between science and witchcraft. She lives in a ski town and works as an environmental researcher when not writing. Find her at www.jenniferellis.ca.