Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: "Mind Games"/"Sister Assassin" by Kiersten White.

“Mind Games/Sister Assassin”
Author: Kiersten White
 Pages: 256
Publisher: HarperTeen
Summary (taken from Goodreads): 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 best-selling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.
The ratings system is inherently flawed in relation to book reviews. I tend to use the 1 star review solely for books that offended me, particularly in their romanticised depiction of rape culture, abusive relationships, women shaming, etc. I seldom, if ever, give a book 1 star because it was just awful as a piece of literature. I read somewhere that the author Kiersten White finished the first draft of this book in nine days. I don’t believe that. Nine days is far longer than my original prediction of a weekend. This book read like a NaNoWriMo novel written in the final two days because the author forgot about it. It’s been a long time since I read a book as painfully rushed, sloppy and lazy as “Mind Games” (known as “Sister Assassin” in UK).
The biggest failure of this book is the narration. Switching between the two sisters who are entirely matching in almost every way, White has chosen a stream-of-consciousness first person style to tell this story. Stream-of-consciousness was a particular favourite of the Modernist movement, and utilised to great effect by writers such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce (if you’ve actually finished “Ulysses” then you’re a better person than I am). It’s tough to read even when it’s executed perfectly. Here it’s practically unbearable. Not only are the sisters’ narrations impossible to differentiate from, the constant repetition of words and phrases, coupled with the lazy and juvenile nature of the prose made the experience of reading this book seem far longer than its slim page numbers would suggest. The non-linear narrative feels like such a slog, and does nothing but make the story entirely incoherent. Any possibility of the book livening up with some action is quickly ruined by this unreadable style.
None of this is helped by the fact that both sisters are motivated by pretty much the same things, make completely irrational decisions that don’t fit with what the other cut-out characters tell us about them, and are both extremely annoying. I didn't want to spend this book with them. Then again, it’s not as if the supporting cast offer up much either. Scooby Doo offered up stronger motivation and characterisation than this book does. However, I must briefly draw attention to one character called James (which I had to look up for this review because I have honestly forgotten everyone’s names except for the sisters), who plies an under-age girl with alcohol to get her to talk. Of course, James is the dark, sexy and dangerous one who we are supposed to root for the woman he plies with alcohol to get together with. He also delightfully manipulates a young woman who struggles with her ability to feel everyone else’s emotions into believing he cares for her because that makes her easier to deal with. Not that the alcohol plied sister Fia really cares about the well-being of this young woman. She doesn’t care about anyone besides herself, regardless of her constant whining over looking after her blind sister. I’d be angrier at this mess if I in any way cared about Fia or Annie as characters.
The powers that the sisters have could be interesting if executed well, but instead they’re just there. They serve bare plot purposes in the most serviceable manner possible and are barely explained or expanded upon. In the end, everything that went on felt entirely inconsequential because I just didn’t care about anything (although I did wonder why any stereotypical evil organisation would use a woman with perfect instincts to kill people instead of just having her make them billions and screw around with democracy).
The style of the book and the childish approach to storytelling and prose just dragged me out of the experience. I can live with an unoriginal plot structure, which this book has in spades, if the execution is interesting, or interesting questions are asked, or if the characters and dialogue bring it to life. This book has none of that. I spent much more time thinking about why White was in such a hurry to push this book out than I did thinking about the book itself. “Mind Games” is bafflingly bad. I cannot understand how a relatively well acclaimed New York Times best-selling author can fail so badly with this book, although some blame must also go to the editor and agent for rushing this out so quickly as if publishing it was a race against time. I see that this book is the first in a duology, which makes me shudder, in all honesty. “Mind Games” was a waste of my time, a waste of the publisher’s time, and just a mess in every conceivable way.
I received my ARC from “Mind Games” will be released by HarperTeen on February 29th