Monday, 8 August 2016

'Think Twice' (Don't Even Think About It #2) by Sarah Mlynowski

*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Hachette Children's Group, for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.

'We sat together in the same U configuration, in every class. All twenty of us. The Espies. Together. All friggin' day.' 
I loved this opening. It perfectly embodies the voice that I fell in love with in the first novel, the dry sarcasm that had me laughing and made me want to read more even though the first installment was so well wrapped-up.

'Things were good now. Things were so good, it was almost frightening. Olivia couldn't help but wonder how long it would last. Nothing ever stayed the same, right? Things didn't stay good forever. At some point the bubble would burst.' 

Two years have passed since the events of 'Don't Even Think About It' and the Espies are getting ready to go to college. Their psychic powers have helped them all get accepted to their dream colleges (it's a skill that definitely makes them stand out from the rest of the applicants) and they're all looking forward to the future. BJ and Tess are still together, Olivia and Cooper are official, and Mackenzie is finally getting over the boy that she cheated on.
Yes, four Espies have given up their powers, but the other twenty are using their powers to further themselves: Dave and Daniel, the twins, have been offered a show in Las Vegas; Jordana and Courtney have their own ESP-filled reality show. The world knows they're a special group of teenagers, and none of them would change a thing - particularly not Pi, who has been offered a placement with Diamond working as an undercover spy.
When Jordana and Courtney are shopping and Jordana's ESP suddenly disappears, the group begin to panic. They hope and pray that only Jordana will lose it - she's not the smartest in the group, so maybe it's linked to intelligence? But within a week Anojah and Nick also lose their powers, and the Espies know that none of them are safe.
Pi swallows her pride and begs valedictorian Jon - her intellectual rival - to help her try to design an experiment that will save their powers, and their futures. But with the Espies split into different experimental groups, taking different vitamins to attempt to find the one that will retain their ESP, it's not surprising when they start experiencing some... Unusual side effects...

After reading the first book, I praised Sarah Mlynowski for crafting the story behind the ESP brilliantly: the way that it developed, including the purple eyes and the ability being blocked by the sunglasses, and the different strains that seemed to be emerging in the form of Mackenzie being able to hear through walls.
That praise is tripled in this second installment. Everything is perfectly explained with scientific reasoning: there's nothing left to chance, and nothing is unquestionably accepted. We discover Mackenzie could hear through walls because of her magnesium supplements, and that the different vitamins bring out different strains of the ESP: some of the group can hear long distance thoughts of the person that's on their mind, a few of them suddenly have the ability to mentally order people around, and - most inconveniently - others become ESP tunnels, and people stood either side of them are able to hear each other's thoughts.
It makes the characters develop in an amazing way. As they develop their new powers further, some of them start to despise their ESP, while others manipulate it horrendously. Courtney makes Jordana her living assistant, bossing her around constantly. Olivia can't stop thinking about Cooper, and by being able to hear his thoughts long distance she knows that he's hardly ever thinking about her. Their motives are authentic, and it finally makes sense for there to be such a huge cast of characters - with the variety of their reactions and their ESP, it wouldn't have been effective if there had been less viewpoints to read.
The ESP becomes more interesting, and the character development is great, but there isn't much plot. The Espies attempt to save their powers, and they all lose them - well, with the exception of one of them; the narrator of our story.
Oh, yeah. In this second installment, the 'we' narrator becomes an 'I', and reveals exactly who they are. Do you remember fencing-obsessed banana-eater Brinn, the girl that all of the Espies mocked and derided? In a brilliant twist with a great moral - the uprising of the underdog - Brinn is the only one who keeps hold of her ESP. Her constant banana-eating gave her a huge boost of potassium, which was the necessary vitamin to keep hold of the ESP, but thanks to all of Pi's experiments she keeps taking all of the other vitamins, and becomes the most super-powered Espie of all time.
It's an extremely ominous ending. The sudden shift in voice is jarring but a satisfying revelation, and it's very cleverly written. But I think it would have been more effective as a novella, because there just isn't enough going on to really justify a full-length follow up.

This duology is extremely satisfying, and with it being completely wrapped-up now it probably won't be revisited. It's definitely one of the best overall series that I've read - the books were very much equal, not having one vastly greater than the other.
I'm definitely going to read Sarah Mlynowski's other novels; I enjoy her writing style and the characters that she crafts, and the fact that she can write extremely emotional scenes grounded in dialogue which is the area most other authors struggle with.
I'm surprised that there was a follow-up to the first novel, but if you fell in love with the characters then you'll enjoy this sequel. Be wary of the slightly slow pacing, but enjoy following the stories and seeing where each of the characters end up at the end of their high school lives.

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