Review: Mind Games

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Mind GamesMind Games by Kiersten White
Series: Mind Games #1
Published by HarperTeen on February 19, 2013
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal, Romance, Thriller
Pages: 237
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central

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.

First Sentence: “My dress is black and itchy and I hate it.”

Ugh, you guys. I was so excited for this pretty much until I started reading it. I mean, that cover! Also, I enjoyed the first two Paranormalcy books, though in Endlessly Lend and Evie went way over my sap-tolerance. Here’s the thing: the best part of Paranormalcy is the humor; it may not be good literature or amazing writing, but Evie is funny. Neither Fia nor Annie has a sense of humor, and, without it, the book relies heavily on White’s writing and plotting, which turns out not to be a great thing.

Sometimes when a book disappoints me, I leave feeling angry. I am pissed off for days that the marketing tricked me into reading something so awful. In this case, I really do not have any bad feelings towards Mind Games at all. This may be, in fact, the most meh I have ever felt upon finishing a book. I can almost feel the novel draining out of my head as I type this, so I should probably type with alacrity. Basically, this book bored me, from beginning to end (with brief breaks to annoy me). Despite its brevity, it took three days for me to finish because any distraction would be more interesting.

Blame Bekka of Pretty Deadly Reviews for the random GIFs – she triple dog dared me.

On the plus side, Mind Games starts off with a bang. Fia is an assassin, sent to complete a mission. Unfortunately, her mission turns out to be a cute guy who likes puppies, so she cannot follow through. This would be cheesy, except that saving him writes a death warrant for herself and her blind sister, Annie, with her employers. Even worse, three goons are chasing her and the guy, Adam. The opening scene catches the readers attention and creates a lot of curiosity about what precisely is going on.

Honestly, I’m torn on the writing. Personally, I really do not like it, because repetition and simplistic sentences bother me. However, I do give Kiersten White full credit for writing two disparate, easily-distinguished two person narratives. What really irritates me about the writing, primarily Fia’s narrative, is the repetition. This done stylistically, though, so, if this does not bother you, then I suspect you will enjoy the writing. Here are a couple of samples from the ARC, so you can see what I mean, though note that they could be changed before publication:

“He’s still helping the puppy, untangling the leash from a tree its owner tied it to outside the bar. And he’s not only setting it free, he’s talking to it. I can’t hear the words but I can see in the puppy’s tail that, however he’s talking, he’s talking just right, all tender sweet cheerful comfort as his long fingers deftly untwist and unwind and undo my entire day, my entire life.”

“Oh no. Oh no, oh no. I didn’t do it. I didn’t kill Adam. He’s sitting next to me, driving (I let him drive? Why did I let him drive?) and very much alive.”

The plotting and world building confound me at many points, which is not something I say often. Two main things I really do not get: the school and the seers. First off, we’ve got these people with powers (like seers and readers), and some evil dude is collecting them into this school so he can use them for his nefarious purposes. We learn nothing about how this school started or where the powers came from. Perhaps more frustrating, Fia has a unique power, perfect instincts, but we never learn if there are other rare powers or if she’s just that special.

Throughout the novel, much is made of the seers and how Fia is the only one who can possibly do anything they cannot see in advance. She has this capability because she acts on her perfect instincts. Since she acts impulsively, they cannot ever see her future, since it is not set. That sort of makes sense, except that she makes longer-range plans all the time. Maybe one instinctual decision in the middle prevents the seers from picking up on her endgame? I mean, in the, admittedly surprising, conclusion, she had a plan and they would have seen it; that was not instinct. This whole thing reminds me a lot of Minority Report. All of this might not bother people who do not feel the need to focus so much on nitty gritty details. For me, nothing made any sense, though I may be trying to apply logic where it’s not meant to be.

Mind Games would benefit from characterization. Fia is the only one I know too much about, and the only one to really receive any back story, despite the fact that the flashbacks should give a lot more of a view into Annie and James, too. Fia never coalesces into a distinct person. She does a lot of things and feels a lot of things that never really seem to add up the way one might expect. Her motivations are often unclear, such as why a certain incident made her start tap tap tapping. I do like Fia’s love of dancing, and that no one ever shames her for loving that or wearing sexy clothes. However, I do not care for Fia’s desire to belong to James, like a pair of headphones or something; this seems both out of character and really backward. Everyone else is one-note. James is sexy and dangerous. Annie is blind and helpless. Cole has stubble. Eden is awful. Adam is sweet and loves puppies.

The portrayal of Annie upsets me the most. For all that the book should be equally about her (the UK version is even titled Sister Assassins), she has no role in the novel but to be the albatross around Fia’s neck. Every single horrible thing in Fia’s life happens because she has to watch out for Annie. Both of them feel this. Annie never does anything; even when she makes up her mind to make a change, her role in that change is entirely passive. Her visions of the future, too, should give her some power, but she always messes up, never leverages them properly. Characters should not exist solely to be a burden. The portrayal of Annie’s character depresses me.

Much as this book bores me, I have no doubt that other readers will squee all over it. If you like the writing samples above and will not be digging around looking for plot holes, you can probably sit back and be entertained. If you’re more like me, read a sample before spending your hard-earned money.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Ah, but that’s the glory of not being Eden. She can feel bad all she wants and we never have to feel it!'”

28 responses to “Review: Mind Games”

  1. 🙁 I’m sorry that you didnt enjoy the book very much. And I’m sorry that it didn’t live up to your expectations. I do agree with your points on Annie and there still being a lot of loose ends. I am hoping that the rest of issues will be resolved in the next one. I take it that you won’t be reading that MG2? Either way, hope you’ll read something you enjoy more next time!

    • Christina says:

      Annie’s role was just so disappointing, especially when there are such empowering examples of blind characters in Girl, Stolen and television’s Covert Affairs. Not that every blind person could accomplish what they do, but I’d like to think most aren’t as useless as Annie. It strikes me as vaguely insulting how passive she is.

      Oh, heck no. I will only read MG2 if it gets amazing reviews from reviewers I trust, most of whom probably won’t want to read it either. Actually, I might be done with Kiersten White. I enjoyed Parnormalcy for the humor, but the books were all just three stars for me, so meh.

  2. KM says:

    “Cole has stubble.” Lol!!

    Yeah, this one just didn’t seem right for me. The best part of kiersten’s books is the humor, and if that’s not there, I don’t think I would like it…

  3. Kat Balcombe says:

    dkhfkalsjdhfaiudh!!! I didn’t read the whole review because I need to read this one still, but I have an awful feeling that writing style is going to annoy me *purges brain*

  4. Booooooo! I read most of the review, though admittedly I tried to skim the more negative parts, expectations and all. But the writing sounds like something I wouldn’t be a fan of either. I really wanted to love this one and I wanted everyone to love it! I’ll be reading it soon, so here is hoping I’ll have much better luck! *crosses fingers & toes*

  5. Kelsey says:

    I have been hearing a lot of negative things about this book, which is too bad because I love her first series! I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this more.

  6. Nori says:

    Oh no! This one sounded so good! This is a sad day for me…I will probably still read it though. But I can see a lot of the same things bothering me as well. Also, yay for your Supernatural image!

  7. Renae says:

    I definitely agree that White’s strongpoint isn’t in her excellent writing or brilliant plot construction, and without Evie’s quirky humor, Mind Games kind of failed as an attempt at being a “serious” YA novel.

    My biggest problem was probably the world-building, though. I know it’s the one thing I’m abnormally picky about it any book, but seriously, the premise for this book had more holes than your average colander. It’s no good when a reader is too confused to feel grounded in your setting, and has more questions than she can remember.

    • Christina says:

      Agreed. White needs to stick to what she rocks at and that’s quirky humor. These characters are all so stiff and flat, and, though Paranormalcy has it’s problems, all of the characters are much better fleshed out, quirky and funny.

      Oh good lord, yes, I really didn’t know what was going on most of the time. The jumps back and forth in time weren’t used effectively at all either. I think Mind Games would have been better if just written chronologically. You lose the big start, but it would make more sense. Maybe.

  8. Lilian says:

    Thank God you didn’t love this one. Or you would have put me in a very awkward position.

    Mind Games was my foray into White’s writing. I was set on reading her Parnormalcy series right after Mind Games since I have a copy of Endlessly. But after Mind Games, I don’t think I’ll be picking up anything of her’s any time soon. *sigh*
    And I thought I would like it after that first chapter too. “YAY! STRONG HEROINE KICKING BUTT WHO MANIPULATES PEOPLE! YAY!!!” Unfortunately, after the first chapter, I didn’t give a damn about the rest of the book.

    Like you, I was UTTERLY confused with this one. It felt like White was hopping around to all these sub-plots (a passage about James, a passage about Adam, some flashback, some random Annie musings, some repetition from Fia), leaving me with NO idea what the plot of this book even is…and disliking Annie for interrupting my action scenes. “HURRY UP AND SHUT UP, ANNIE. I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU BEING EMO!”
    It took me a while to realize Annie was the older sister.

    And Fia’s abilities left me lost. Perfect instincts?!? What does that mean?
    So she could just go through life and everything will fall in place? If she has perfect instincts to the point she can guess all the right stocks (no need for seers!,) she should just go off and be a millionaire, and hire a bunch of people to save her sister.

    And that school. I have no idea what’s going on. Even though there are hints of a conspiracy, everything is fuzzy. How can I dislike the school if I have no idea what they even do (aside from the locking up children part?)

    BUT, I was able to finish Mind Games quickly due to its short length. But the plot felt like White had too many ideas and tried to throw them all in…making a mess.

    • Christina says:

      Blergh, no. I was not a fan.

      Paranormalcy is better. The series was a fairly solid three for me across the board. Fun and fluffy, if never meant for any sort of literary glory whatsoever. I do not think they would even be that for you, maybe.

      The first chapter was the best part. X_X And it wasn’t very good either.

      Seriously, what the hell was going on? And why? I don’t even know, and not in a “OMG MUST KEEP READING TO FIND OUT” sort of way. More like *throws book against wall*. Why is Annie’s perspective in here if she NEVER DOES ANYTHING.

      For real. Perfect instincts is kind of like the Graceling power sort of? But like lamer? Truth. That whole thing made zero sense.

      Well, I think they only locked up Annie, because locking up the only disabled one is logical. All the other students were supposedly there electively, I guess because they were boning that dude. *shudders*

  9. Well, this might just be the last Kiersten White novel. I read Paranormalcy and gave it 2 stars. The simplistic writing style was just not for me. I was hoping that it was just that series, but apparently it looks like it’s found here too. I’ll still be reading it since I won an ARC, but I am less excited about it now.

  10. not that good ?
    i will another book then..thx u for the review…

  11. Aww. I was looking forward to this one. At least I didn’t buy it. I’ll go and get something else I guess. Thanks for the review.

  12. Oh no. I’ve been looking forward to reading this one, but have stumbled across quite a few reviews like this one now. I’m probably going to try out Paranormalcy first because I haven’t read that yet.

    Thank you for your honesty 🙂

  13. Wow, fascinating. I’m in the middle of Mind Games now, and I’m loving it, even though I admit that the repetition of words bothered me, too. I’m really into action-y books and I felt that that stylistic choice really suited Fia, so I was able to overlook it.

    I’m not done yet, but I think the blogosphere is going to be pretty divided on this one. Really interesting.

    • Christina says:

      Huh, well, I’m glad you like it more than I did. A lot of my friends have had the same reaction as me, but I’m sure plenty of other people will appreciate it. I suspect it has a lot to do with what you read for. I think most of my friends and I read for character development first, and that was lacking. There’s definitely some good action, but since I didn’t care about the characters I couldn’t be too bothered about those parts, you know?

      Anyway, I hope you continue to enjoy it!

  14. Stephanie says:

    That’s too bad you didn’t like this one. I think the premise sounds really interesting so we will see if it comes through for me. I agree with you on the Paranormalcy trilogy- I really liked the first book but the last one was slow for me to get through it. I hope I like this one though!

    • Christina says:

      If you struggled with Paranormalcy later on, I imagine you’ll have trouble with Mind Games too. However, the action has been enough to really entertain some people, so I hope that you’re one of them!

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