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Khanh the Killjoy

Don't even think about reading this book

Don't Even Think About It - Sarah Mlynowski
They stepped into the cafeteria. A cacophony of voices rushed at Mackenzie.
—five french fries today. Five. No more. My thighs are too—
—There’s an empty seat at Jake’s table! Should I take it? But Amanda said—
—Did I just get my period?—
As each thought hit Mackenzie’s mind, so did a stabbing pain in her forehead.

I know just how she feels. This is a "no-thinking-required" type of book. I suggest you read it with several aspirins or (not and!) a few shots of tequila.

This book is about a flu shot that went horribly wrong. I thought the premise was cool, why? Well, for one thing, I had a doctor's visit today.


A most belligerent patient. A most unhappy reader.

...and 15 minutes later:


You see that Band-Aid on my arm? That's for a very late seasonal flu shot. I had a flu shot! The teenagers in this book had a flu shot! What excellent timing. THIS IS GONNA BE AWESOME, RIGHT?!

Not.

This book was not what I wanted it to be. I wanted sci-fi. I wanted a conspiracy theory. I wanted bad-ass teamwork!

Instead, I got a whole lot of teenaged drama. A whole lot of romance. And the utilization of the awesome powers of ESP to...get a boyfriend.

Olivia felt a wee bit guilty that Lazar didn’t know she was reading his mind. But not too guilty. It wasn’t like she asked to be able to read his mind.
And she wasn’t trying to trick him. She was trying to date him.

If you wanted some cool shit to come out of the whole "ESP flu shot" premise, you're shit out of luck. This book is presented as a "contemporary teen fiction with romance, secrets, scandals, and ESP." Not really. The ESP is used as a plot device for all the romance, secrets, and scandals. That's all.

This book is what I like to call "Very YA," meaning there is absolutely no question that this book is written for a Young Adult audience. It is very juvenile. The teenagers act like the most clichéd of all teenagers. You will encounter no end to teenaged tropes in this book. There are not one, but several, instances of love-triangle-what-the-fuckery in this book. There is more romance, more worrying, more concerns over very teenaged worries than anything serious in this book. There is nothing but brain floss within this book. There is no sci-fi.

The Summary: It is a typically day at Bloomberg High School, with one difference. It's flu shot day! There are 23 students from homeroom 10B getting the flu shot that day. It's business as usual...until the next day. Until Olivia realizes something...odd, while attempting to give a speech in front of class.

Everyone in class continued to talk.
“It’s so hot in here.”
“Forgot my Spanish homework.”
“Should have had a third cup of coffee.”
“Why didn’t I pee before class?”
Olivia looked around the room. Everyone was talking, but no one was moving his or her lips.

Soon, it became obvious that something is very, very wrong. Certain people are able to hear peoples' thoughts. There's a connection between the people with "ESP": they all received the flu shot that day.

What follows is the forming of a secret society, the "Espies" (short for Extrasensory Perception) a group composed of the 23 teenagers who are now able to hear thoughts. And they're very, very teenagers thoughts, which is to say, they hurt.

As soon as Sadie stepped inside the classroom, Teddy’s brain went into overdrive. She’s here! Awesome. I hope she’s feeling better. Her hair is so shiny.

And they're very self-centered.

The Espies have to keep this secret. They have to protect each other.

Excellent point, Pi thought back. “One last vote. Are we all in it together?”
And we all raised our hands, Mackenzie included.
We would not tell.

With this awesome ability, they can conquer the world! Think of the possibilities! They can...um...use it to see whether a boy likes them?

As Tess put on a purple shirt, she thought about what it would mean if she found out Teddy didn’t like her. What if he thought she was ugly? Or fat? Did she really want to know what he thought of her? Was she opening some sort of Pandora’s box?

Or to make sure a date goes smoothly.

Every concern Lazar had, Olivia heard.
If she doesn’t walk faster, we’re going to be late.
Olivia walked faster.
What did she just say? She speaks so softly.
Olivia spoke up.
I wonder what her favorite band is. I hope she likes Delivery.
“I just love Delivery! They’re the best.”
“Did you like the new Thomas Allen movie?” It was so amateur. I hope she didn’t like it.
“No way,” Olivia said. “It was so amateur.”
But Lazar nodded, his eyes wide. It’s like she’s taking the words right out of my mouth!

*groans*

We hear everything. From the most mundane thoughts of a 3-year old sibling ("Funny mousies funny mousies") to parents thinking about sex (ew).

Her dad patted her mom on the leg. I can’t wait to take off Linda’s robe.
Huh? Oh no. Mackenzie slammed her eyes shut.
Her parents. Were. Going. To. Have. Sex.
Sex!
Imminently!
She backed slowly out of the room.

It's strange, considering that they can read minds, they can still get surprised by pop quizzes.

Third period, Pi had a surprise quiz in precalc.
She was not prepared.

It all leads up to the events of a Sweet Sixteen birthday party, where hearts (and jaws) will be broken.

That's it.

The Narrators:

Maybe you think Olivia is telling the story. Or Mackenzie, or Cooper, or someone else in our homeroom you haven’t met yet.
It could be any of us.
But it’s not.
It’s all of us. We’re telling you this story together.

When a book begins by telling you that there are multiple narrators, all ambiguous, I had a chill of forboding in the back of my neck. I was right.

This book is kind of a mess. It is told in omniscient POV, there are multiple narrators. We see things from multiple POVs. There are 22 people involved in this book's core plot. Thankfully, not all of them are the focus, but it made things damned confusing.

The Plot: There are several main narrators in this book, like Mackenzie, Cooper, Tess, Olivia, Pi, among others. Almost all their stories revolve around romance. This is absolutely shocking, because, hello! FUCKING ESP-CAUSING FLU VIRUS. Shouldn't someone, I don't know, TELL SOMEONE ABOUT THIS? Ok, I understand why they wouldn't, because it's a pretty powerful ability, but there is so much possibility with this premise, and this book goes nowhere with it. The idea of ESP is completely undermined by a bunch of very, very self-centered, very immature kids.

There is no science in this book. Absolute none at all. The concept of the whys, the hows of the ESP is completely skipped over.

The ending also didn't make any sense. If you want to know what happened and my rant commentary on it, click the spoiler tag below.

In the end, it was discovered that there was something wrong with the batch of flu vaccine (no shit). The CDC wanted to give the teenagers $50,000 to overlook the whole event, not to mention give them an antidote to erase the effects of the ESP.

First off, $50,000. That is chump change. I don't know if you've read about pharmaceutical liabilities cases, but the damages given in those lawsuits are a hell of a lot more than $50,000. Think MILLIONS. Think of what would happen if this were made public. $50,000. I don't fucking think so.

And the idea that the government would just erase these kids' abilities.

DOES THIS MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE TO YOU?

People who can read minds. This is some fucking CIA shit going on. Do you seriously think that such a valuable tool would be just---erased by the United States government without using it to the full extent of its powers? Would the CIA/the CDC allow these teenagers to go off scot-free knowing what they can do? There are CIA/spy movies based on this premise. It is a powerful, powerful spy tool. Think of reading the minds of criminals, terrorists.

This is fucking powerful shit, and this book completely lets it go. I don't fucking buy it.

The "Thoughts": They're dumbed down, simplified. The human mind works abstractly. We do not think in sentences, we do not think in segments, we do not think in order. When I have a thought, it's going to be fleeting; a thought is less a sentence than a concept, an idea in my mind that is not verbalized. This book completely verbalizes all thoughts, in a "stream of consciousness" dialogue that is completely unconvincing. Not to mention headache-inducing.

They're just teenaged thoughts. And they are so annoying. If I wanted my head to hurt this much, I'd volunteer at a middle school. They're childish, silly, catty without meaning to be, they're occasionally funny, but they grate on my nerves.

I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to think that! You’re very pretty! If you went to the gym twice a week, you’d be gorgeous! Shit, shit, shit. I’m sorry! I can’t help it!
Tess knew that Mackenzie was gorgeous. Everyone knew that Mackenzie was gorgeous. But Tess had always hoped that Mackenzie had thought Tess was gorgeous too. As is.

The Romance: Also known as: The Plot. We get to know these teens' love lives (SO MANY OF THEM) in intimate detail.

*takes a deep breath*

Mackenzie is dating Cooper who is the class clown and who adores her, while thinking of her hook-up Bennett, on the side. She now regrets it, and wishes she had held out. Now her secret's out! Everyone knows! Will Cooper ever find out?!

She wasn’t sure what to tell Cooper. She wasn’t sure why she’d done it. She loved Cooper, didn’t she?
Mackenzie couldn’t tell Cooper. He’d break up with her. And then what? She’d lose him. He’d hate her.

Tess is best friends with Teddy, only he doesn't know it, and treats her blissfully like a best guy pal instead of a...girl. Tess has ESP now! Tess can tell whether Teddy likes her or not. But then there are complications! There's Sadie, gorgeous, gorgeous Sadie. She's really nice, but it doesn't change the fact that Teddy is in love with her. But it's ok, Sadie is dating Keith! Oh, no!

He was her Teddy. Even if Sadie was dating Keith, it was still possible that she could fall madly in love with Teddy, right? Even if he was a sophomore and Keith was a senior? Unlikely, yes, but still possible.

There's Olivia, who desperately wants a date with Lazar. Thanks to her ESP, she can read his mind and become the perfect girl---in his mind.

Lazar cleared his throat. “Olivia?”
“Yes?” Olivia said. She turned around to face him. She tried to look surprised.
Oh no, she looks like she doesn’t want to talk to me.
No! No! I do want to talk to you! She tried to make her face look unsurprised. Expecting.
She looks like she’s in a hurry.
Ahhhh! What was wrong with her face?
Maybe I shouldn’t ask her out. He stood up. “Have a good weekend.”
No, no, no. That was not how this was supposed to go.

WILL THEY HAVE A HAPPILY EVER AFTER?

I don't care.