Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Minder by Kate Kaynak

Maddie Dunn has always had strong flashes of insight into the thoughts and feelings of those around her, but she never dreamed it was anything more than intuition - until the day she fights her way out of the most horrifying situation imaginable brandishing no weapon but her mind. The power that erupts in Maddie is not mere thought power, but a physical forcefield of energy that rises from her in an unconscious response to her sheer terror. The aftermath of this phenomenon has the police asking a few too many questions, but before Maddie finds herself in jail two mysterious figures swoop in and spirit her away to Ganzfield, a school for teens who, like Maddie, have special and potentially dangerous abilities. Maddie soon finds herself caught up in a familiar social hierarchy, but with a twist; at Ganzfield there are charms (who can compel others to obey their every command), telepaths, healers, remote viewers (who can mentally view anyone, anywhere), pyrokinetics, and even a telekinetic. A telekinetic who, Maddie soon learns, she can connect with on an unfathomable level. However, just as Maddie dares to hope that she might get a happy ending in spite of her traumatic past, the sadistic enemies of Ganzfield rear their ugly heads - leaving the teenage heroine no choice but to push her new-found powers to their limit and take matters into her own hands, even if it costs her her life.

Minder is an engaging psychological thriller with a streak of science fiction for good measure. The world Kate Kaynak creates is dark and twisted, full of intense young adult issues as well as looming supernatural threats. There is an interesting balance in the novel between science and romance, action and sentiment, logic and passion. The brusque pacing and tone fit well with the almost clinical feel of the Ganzfield institution and yet, as a minder, Maddie has profound insight into the hopes, fears and dreams of everyone around her -- especially Trevor, with whom she has an impossibly powerful connection. Through her heroine's ability, Kaynak gives color to emotions: dazzling silver love, sickly yellow anxiety, tingly red passion. This fascinating aspect of telepathy is a wonderfully effective narrative strategy, evoking strong sympathy in the reader as they envision and experience the emotion alongside the characters. Maddie's ability also allows unusually deep insight into those around her - their true nature, hopes and fears. Two characters are especially captivating -- Dr. Williamson, who becomes like a father-figure to Maddie though he harbors a sad secret of his own, and Drew, the playful friend who is like the brother everyone wishes they had. Williamson is especially complex and promises to develop into a truly thought-provoking and multifaceted character as the series progresses.

However, the best and most refreshing aspect of this paranormal YA romance is the heroine herself. Maddie is strong, powerful and willing to stop at nothing to protect herself and the people she loves. Rather than having Trevor fight her battles, Maddie is the one protecting him (admittedly to his chagrin), as well as all the other outcasts of Ganzfield. The familiar social hierarchy of high school is given a novel layer with the inclusion of such powerful and malicious beings as "charms" -- students who are able to compel others to do their will with a simple spoken command. This ability is used for some truly sadistic purposes that will raise bile in readers' throats. Until now, this unpardonable behavior has been tolerated or overlooked by the administration of Ganzfield, but Maddie isn't the kind of person to take injustice lying down and she blows into the school like an avenging angel, much to the glee of the heretofore tormented and humiliated students.

Though the overwhelming teenage love between Maddie and Trevor can be a little exasperating, they have an amazingly profound connection born out of Maddie's ability to see straight into his soul. This spiritual connection also has some imaginative side effects that readers will find intriguing. Their mental conversations (since Maddie can also project her thoughts into others' minds) are an enjoyable and quirky alternative to dialogue. Throughout the novel, Kaynak judiciously uses Maddie's abilities for innovative and effective methods of narration. Sprinkled across the pages are one-word apostrophes from Maddie's mind that give more insight and evoke more feeling than pages of laborious description could, especially with respect to Maddie's conflicted feelings about her own terrifying powers.

Maddie isn't an innocent bystander in this eerie and horrifying world. Not only can the teenager read others' minds, she can inflict serious damage with her own. Perhaps counter-intuitively, this shadow only makes for a more compelling heroine. Minder is full of the provocative philosophical and ethical questions that naturally arise from such scientific advances and make this more than just a teenage love story. There are certainly some aspects of this story that are not for the faint-hearted, but the overall effect produces a mesmerizing and heart-pounding race against time to save everything Maddie holds dear. The threat doesn't end in this book, however; the future installments promise an escalation to full-out war between the talented inhabitants of Ganzfield and the mysterious, powerful enemies who want to eradicate their kind.


Disclosure: I received a review copy of this novel from the author. This did not affect my review in any way.

Click here to purchase Minder by Kate Kaynak.

Come back tomorrow to read my author interview with Kate Kaynak and enter to win a Minder t-shirt!


Blueicegal ♥ said...

i loved this book!! im glad you enjoyed it, its very unique, love how detailed your review is! :)

Anonymous said...

This sounds like an amazing book! It seems to be so different from anything I've read before. I hadn't heard of this book until now but will be adding it to my wish list! Great review, and I really enjoyed your interview with the author as well.

Disgruntled Bear said...

Thanks for reviewing! I've linked over from the Ganzfield fansite on Facebook.

Luvdaylilies said...

Great review=) Sounds like a thriller I'd enjoy!
Luvdaylilies at bellsouth dot net

ArtemisG said...

Book is amazing! I love the story of the book and the character of the girl is very interesting. Minder sounds a great thriller.

Mary Ellen said...

I've added this one to my TBR list. It's such an original premise and sounds very exciting and suspenseful.

Vivien said...

I've been leery about starting this series...but it sounds like a good one.

Anonymous said...

I've been very very unsure about this series, seems to stray from my preferred reading, though I'm very accepting of others tastes. This review has made me a little bit more wanting to read this.

danya said...

Like a couple of the others, I've been a bit wary of this one, but I do keep hearing good things about this series so I may have to give it a try at some point. I like the idea of her connecting colors with emotions — kind of like synesthesia! Also the villainous characters do sound quite horribly sadistic with their ability to compel.

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