Title: Forbidden Mind
Author: Kimberly Kinrade
Genre: YA paranormal
Length: 134 pages
Read: January 18, 2012
Summary: Fast and fun. Recommended.
This little novel caught my attention yesterday while running a Kindle Select free day. I was sold by the tag line, “She reads minds. He controls minds. Together, they might get out alive.” I like the notion of a couple stuck together by the inherent nature of circumstances. I tried to build this dynamic into my second novel, Untimed — only it’s time travel, not mind reading.
I pounded through this book in one sitting, as it is only 134 pages, making it more a novella. This is a new trend made possible by the Kindle store. Previously novellas were basically impossible to sell and besides, I was never really into them, being more the 400,000 word per volume, ten volume fantasy kind of guy (I have actually read all but the last of the Wheel of Tedium). But now, being older and having less time, I’m finding I dig ’em.
Forbidden Mind is written in tight first person past. The prose is very snappy and light, the way I like it. Perhaps it could use the tiniest bit of further line editing, but it’s good. We drop right into the character and the story and race from there. In a 134 pages, there isn’t room to dawdle and Kinrade doesn’t. Things are lean, with the bare minimum description. The protagonist is very likeable. She isn’t super complex, but she has a nice non-snarky teen voice. The setup here is that she’s a mind reader who lives in a kind of Professor X’s school for the gifted — but they aren’t so altruistic. In fact they rent out the paranormal kids for clandestine missions (slightly Dollhouse like). The scenario is very intriguing and the book so breathlessly fast that we race right through the “school” scenes and into Act 2 and the B story (romance), which likewise blur by.
I’ve always liked mind readers and what’s known in the literature as mind controllers, pushers, or coercers. Some of my favorite books are Firestarter, The Case of the Vanishing Boy, Carrion Comfort (best horror novel I’ve ever read, and Stephen King agrees with me), and Intervention.
In Forbidden Mind, the story is the girl’s perspective and so we get more of the mind reading than the controlling. This part is well handled, but I thought there was some juicy potential in the synergistic relationship between a mind reader and a coercer that was left on the table. Things move fast and character is more Kinrade’s strongpoint than complex action so their extraction from their predicament is quick and straightforward. Being a crazy nerd I’ve spent an insane amount of time thinking about physic powers and their ramifications. I love books that deal in complexity with a system of powers. The Julian May books do, as does Sheri S. Tepper’s remarkable True Game series. I would have loved to see this pair escaping using a mental version of the three legged race. Plus, this is a powerful pair of powers: unlimited mind reading and mind control, so they could easily overshadow obstacles without a very threatening antagonist (a Heroes Sylar type) or significant limitations (like Firestarter’s cerebral hemorrhaging). We don’t have these. But Kinrade constructs the story in such a rapid and straightforward way as to avoid the problem. And the ending comes equally quick, but satisfying.
Which leaves us room to explore this interesting dynamic in the sequel. If you like paranormal teen adventure, try it out.