Title: Mind Games
Author: Kiersten White
No. of Pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 20 February 2013
Bottom Line: Interesting thriller that defies the YA stereotypes
“Fia and Annie are as close as two sisters can be. They look out for each other. Protect each other. And most importantly, they keep each other’s secrets, even the most dangerous ones: Annie is blind, but can see visions of the future; Fia was born with flawless intuition—her first impulse is always exactly right. When the sisters are offered a place at an elite boarding school, Fia realizes that something is wrong . . . but she doesn’t grasp just how wrong. The Keane Institute is no ordinary school, and Fia is soon used for everything from picking stocks to planting bombs. If she tries to refuse, they threaten her with Annie’s life. Now Fia’s falling in love with a boy who has dark secrets of his own. And with his help, she’s ready to fight back. They stole her past. They control her present. But she won’t let them take her future.”
Thoughts: Mind Games is not a typical young adult supernatural thriller. Gone is the love triangle with its forced angst and other conflicts. Absentee parents are no longer an issue since the girls are orphans. The supernatural element is subtle even if it is a large part of the story. The world in which the story unfolds is not on its death throes or in the process of rebuilding; it has not suffered a catastrophe of some import and is not subject to an insidious dictatorship.
Rather, Fia’s main love is her sister, to whom she is bound by a profound sense of sisterhood, love, and duty. Their orphan status is an interesting twist that heightens their bond and need for each other, just as Annie’s blindness increases the protectiveness Fia feels for Annie. It is this complex love for Annie which keeps her at the Keane Institute and which provides them with the leverage required for Fia to act against her instincts. A boy does enter the picture, and there is a mutual spark of interest between them, but it really is Fia and Annie’s relationship which drives the story.
There is no doubt that what the Keane Institute is doing is highly illegal, and one cannot help but feel as uncomfortable and on edge as Fia does from the moment she steps foot inside its walls. However, the danger, like Fia’s powers, is subtle. There are no overt threats, no obvious “do this or else” statements. The implied danger belies the caring overtones of the facility and creates a pit of tension in a reader’s stomach.
As Mind Games is the first book of a series, neither Fia nor the reader can see the total scope or Fia’s role within it. The hints are few and far between so that readers will have to sit tight to determine the ultimate purpose of the Keane Institute. However, the point of emphasis here is that it is the Keane Institute that is the “bad guy”, not the government official or society rules. Take away Annie’s visions and Fia’s perfect intuition, and the story becomes nothing more than a corporate thriller with political undertones.
This is not to say that the supernatural element in Mind Games is not interesting or necessary. In fact, one could easily say it is specifically because of women and girls like Fia and Annie which makes their world so interesting. To have one’s every thought and emotion at the mercy of others denotes a scary absence of privacy, something at which Ms. White only hints. This lack of privacy and more importantly the meaning behind it ties into the lack of the big picture and the tantalizing insinuations that future books will reveal more about this overall lack of privacy and its meaning for Keane’s goals.
Mind Games, with its stream of consciousness narrative and lack of obviousness in the threats and main story arc, is a refreshing break from the young adult/ paranormal/ love triangle trope. Fia is not a girl looking for love or for a man to help her. She is more than capable of taking care of her sister and herself. The Keane Institute, with its mild-mannered threats and elusive goal, is a formidable opponent. It is obvious that the clash between the two in this first novel is only the beginning of a greater battle to come, heightening one’s anticipation of future Mind Games novels.