I give, I tap. This book is such a mess.
Twenty-two fifteen-year-olds in NYC gain telepathy after their batch of flu shots goes terribly wrong. For three quarters of the book we're forced to suffer through the most insipid high school drama without a single meaningful plot development.
The writing is awful. I've read Mlynowski's work before and was impressed with the way her characters felt age realistic, so I think it's a combination of trying something that's not working, (the narration, we'll get there,) and an ensemble that's entirely too big. Because there are just too many characters, they all boil down to stock tropes. Tess is the insecure one, Olivia is the goody two shoes, Mackenzie is the cheating bitch, Pi's the ambitious bitch, Cooper's the sad sack, BJ's the perv... Then we have side characters, (seventeen of them!) like Sylvia, who only exists to be Tess's foil and "their" love interest, Teddy, who literally has not had a thought that wasn't about one of them. This should have been about four kids with telepathy, not two dozen.
Because their telepathy means there are no secrets from other "Espies", the story is sometimes told in first person plural. This is the narrative device I referenced earlier, and after the first few chapters, when it’s only deployed in asides, I don’t hate it, but I feel pulled out of the story every time it happens. For example, the story is mostly told in third person past: "Olivia's heart skipped a beat." "Renée laughed." Good. But, then it lapses into things like: "We're relieved she's not one of us. We have enough busybodies without her." Bad. As if that weren't enough, occasionally the tenses are mixed without a voice change. In one conversation, BJ both “says” and “said”. So is this past or present? Is the third person omniscient narrating or is it the Espies? Or is it Oliva, who BJ’s having the conversation with? You can mix narration, but it needs to be done with a far defter hand than is applied here.
I could forgive all this for a good or even fun story, but alas. The telepathy is stupid. It's like hearing, in that the closer you are, the louder it is. It's hard to hear people with something in between, and walls block it out altogether. Except for Mackenzie, she can hear through walls for no good reason. But telepathy is linked to the eyes. The one(!) character with glasses can hear much louder than the rest, to the point that it basically cripples her. They can turn the ESP off by closing their eyes, because the waves can't get through eyelids. (Um, what is light attenuation, Alex?) Oh and their eyes all turn purple. I don't know why. Maybe that's in the last hundred pages with the rest of the plot.
230 pages and 31 chapters of needless boy drama, toxic friends, cheating, hypocrisy, and boy drama. I don’t need to go any farther. I should have listened to the title and not even thought about reviewing this book.