Book Title: Minders (Standalone)
Author: Michele Jaffe
Number of pages: 400
Q: If the boy you love commits a crime, would you turn him in?
Sadie Ames is a type-A teenager from the wealthy suburbs. She’s been accepted to the prestigious Mind Corps Fellowship program, where she’ll spend six weeks as an observer inside the head of Ford, a troubled boy with a passion for the crumbling architecture of the inner city. There’s just one problem: Sadie’s fallen in love with him.
Q: What if the crime is murder?
Ford Winters is haunted by the murder of his older brother, James. As Sadie falls deeper into his world, dazzled by the shimmering pinpricks of color that form images in his mind, she begins to think she knows him. Then Ford does something unthinkable.
Q: What if you saw it happen from inside his mind?
Back in her own body, Sadie is faced with the ultimate dilemma. With Ford’s life in her hands, she must decide what is right and what is wrong. And how well she can really ever know someone, even someone she loves.
(re: Goodreads @ Minders by Michele Jaffe)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
- Enjoy looking through kaleidoscopes? Well, thoughts and emotions are seen in Technicolor. That’s pretty neat.
- World building takes on contemporary realism with subtle science-fiction elements that aren’t overwhelming for non sci-fi fanatics.
- The narrative is not anchored by romance in pacing (although I’d imagine you could still ship them); I mean, she’s pretty normal and he exudes the troubled bad boy.
Hmm, neat cover and premise but even neater opening prologue to the story. That’s really all I got for initial thoughts. Ha.
Lettuce explore my mind.
Disclaimer: Potential spoilers inherent to this review from here onward.
[“Not punishing someone and letting them “get away” with something isn’t love, and it isn’t friendship. It is lazy and enabling. People use loyalty as emotional blackmail for morally questionable decisions. Making the hard choice shows you are paying attention and that you care. That is true loyalty.”]
Minders is pegged to fall under the “YA science-fiction romance” umbrella but it’s actually more of an contemporary urban-mystery with the science and romance aspect being integrative but not taking precedence. The opening sequence is served two ways: a prologue and an interview transcription; both creating an anticipative atmosphere. While being thrown into tense and thrilling prologues isn’t uncommon, I found that it was the interview that was really attention grabbing; setting the tone from a character and plotting standpoint prior to her transformation.
[“Progress comes from being unafraid to make hard choices. Science is brutal.”]
The premise follows Sadie Ames and her overachieving stature to join the coveted Mind Corps program called Syncopy; a procedure that inserts a participants mind into subjects for several weeks to objectively evaluate the mental and physical capacity of their hosts within their environment. These participants are called Minders and are able to experience the same sights, thoughts, and feelings as their hosts; however, are not able to freely communicate with them. Additionally, thanks to Sadie’s mental prowess and rigidity, the same social experiment is deviated to study the behaviours of the destructive, underprivileged, and potential criminally justified individuals. On face value, she embraces the challenge in observing Subject Nine; whom is unaware of Syncopy, without an emotional bias but soon finds herself in a situation that tests her limits of anonymity.
(For an added bonus, check out my Music Monday – Tritonal & Paris Blohm – Colors (feat. Sterling Fox) post to see my musical interpretation of Sadie experiencing Syncopy.)
And so you’re reading this with your skeptical hat on and you’re wondering: why on Earth would they send in barely legal teenagers instead of adults? And you’re in the right mindset to question the efficacy of entrusting the task of a high-cost, technologically-driven social experiment to teenagers. But then you consider the development of the young adult brain and its pliancy toward continual growth, change, and social conditional based on visible, tangible experiences. So as scary as it is to envision the mind playing host to change-driven leaders, the focus then returns full circle back to understanding the experiments scope toward change. Albeit a radical approach, it certainly holds the right mindset to be of benefit for both participants; but more importantly as a model for science-fiction story telling of young adults.
[“For the first time she saw exactly how far she’d come from the girl who believed “I think, therefore I am.” There was no thinking without emotion, she knew now. And the more you tried to keep emotion at bay, the greater and more widespread the impact. It bled into every aspect of the mind in unpredictable ways.”]
The narrative is crafted on the backdrop of science-fiction with an integration of real-world urban elements (takes place in Detroit). Initially, I would have liked more background to the actual state of the society; particularly City Center and its evident divide on a socioeconomic and governing standpoint. The Mind Corps is a neat facility; its architecture and varying subbasement themed levels were an interesting concept despite the feeling that many technologies and research studies felt either made up or lacked definitive purpose due to non-existent descriptions. Additionally, even though the focus was geared towards areas affecting Syncopy, it would have been nice if greater training was involved to prepare the Minders without feeling too convoluted. Of course, training is difficult when the operation is thought driven but it would be nice to have these details presented as a training module as opposed to anecdotal depiction throughout Sadie’s experiment. Once the narrative enters Subject Nine and the City Center, the world takes a turn and is nicely imagined without straying too far from its contemporary roots. It’s dingy, dilapidated, and gives off a dying vintage appeal as buildings have been long abandoned and the only thing that exudes a sense of presence is the nightlife. And what is with those street and building names? They were a mishmash of words that, considering a lacking conversation, was confusing and holds fairly little meaning at best – even if it’s a reimagining of wishful thinking on Subject Nine’s part.
[“Subject in above average physical condition but emotionally stunted, Sadie recorded in her mental notebook, because “looks like a hot guy, behaves like a five-year-old” didn’t sound very scientific.”]
The story is layered to be more about the journey than its destination; or can be inversely considered, depending on which perspective you consider. The pacing allows the shrouded elements of mystery, romance, and science-fiction to be developed as the story progresses without detracting from the contemporary realism that could make this very much believable (i.e. Subject Nine takes the bus and rides a bike to get around –legit). Although it unfolds outwardly through the eyes of Subject Nine, as we come to know as Ford Winters, it is through Sadie’s interpretation of everything (thoughts, emotions, dreams) that readers become somewhat attached to Ford’s mission of uncovering the truth. There are clues laden throughout the novel that more-or-less doesn’t resolve until the final chapters; but even so, there are twists and turns throughout the journey that will surely keep readers questioning and on their toes. However, the ending does feel a bit rushed despite wrapping up what it set out to achieve. It certainly also has some unnecessary additions that stretched the story out longer than it had to have been. Personally, I thought there were too many get-out-of-jail free cards and “stop asking questions” that added very little value besides telling me that Ford doesn’t really learn and grow from his mistakes. Playing devil’s advocate, it is clear that love and friendship can turn a blind eye in justifying a poor decision but I’m dubious about these judgments if it’s a matter of life and death.
[“The idea that he felt good about something he’d done began to fill her with her own sense of warmth. He is not your friend, he is your Subject, she reminded herself sternly. Your job is to assess and consider but not empathize.”]
For Sadie and Ford, it is definitely not love at first sight but rather a gradual descent into the romantic genre. I will remind you that the romance is not forefront and so I hope that aspect of expectations is not too high. Even so, Sadie isn’t an extremely likeable narrator. Actually, she’s quite boring and very normal. But that’s okay and all can be forgiven since the story is put on auto-pilot with Ford and it is through his experiences rationally filtered by Sadie that creates the attachment and platonic relationship. The basis of their eventual relationship growth is on an emotional level. What I mean by this is that to a certain degree, she feels was he feels; and yes, he’s a bad boy who fools around with girls and has anger management issues. Now if you consider the influence of “bad boy” contemporary romances, this narrative extracts the true physical connection and bases its romance on the seemingly immaterial. So if we consider character growth based on mental capacity, Sadie is essentially revaluating herself based on the revelation-seeking experience of Ford and his surroundings as a learning module.
[“In general it’s the damage we do to ourselves that lasts the longest. We love to take responsibility for things outside our control and then blame ourselves when they fail.”]
In terms of supporting characters, there were some that added value and others that were just…well…there. For one, Pete just came off as a horn dog and basically expected Sadie to put out every chapter that he was in. Just so you know, he was probably in like three chapters. It’s funny and weird because she was waiting for the “right time” but then she goes off and has faux sexcapades with Ford (remember: she feels what he feels…). So…yeah. Alternatively, I felt like Ford’s mothers’ role in the story had one purpose and after fulfillment, I never really heard from her again. I did appreciate Lulu the most as a secondary character that brought out the best in Ford. For me, she exuded a sense of emotional maturity that almost acted like a projection Sadie’s thoughts during Syncopy. But I think my favourite character is between Bucky and Mason; both adding character depth whether they were fun and daring or felt real and grounded. There’s distinct meaning in this books portrayal of the underlying value to human nature that makes readers enjoy more than what’s on face value.
[“Could you at least tell me about the beer cans? They look like they’re all identical.”
“Multiples,” he corrected.
“This place is lousy with them. Repeated patterns, same object showing up in different places, sometimes as a distraction, sometimes to stand in for something else. Like say you have—”
“Pine trees.” Sadie pointed toward the lakeshore.
“Sure. Could be a reminder of a great day you spent at the lake with your brother when you learned to skip rocks, or a symbol of winter, or the feeling of pining for someone. Keeps it efficient, one thing, lots of associations. Shortcut for the imagination.” He yawned. “Never touch them myself.”]
In terms of my love/hate aspects in this book, if there’s one aspect that I must touch on before this review is over, it’s the fact that one’s thoughts and emotions, as Sadie comes to realises in Ford’s head, is described in Technicolor. The kaleidoscope effect is wondrous, imaginative and was certainly one of the highlights of this book for me. Additionally, dreams were portrayed in different angles based on reality that allowed varying interpretations. This rings so many truths that I appreciated this inclusion. On the other hand, I did have some problems believing the failsafe panic button as it wasn’t really clear to me how she was able to physically touch during syncopy. And the fact that some areas were as long-winded as this review was…
Overall, I quite enjoyed this book although I wish the ending could have been expanded since it felt like it wrapped up too neatly. Then again, it was 400 pages. But then again, I did read this relatively quickly. Minders is standalone and rightfully so although I get the feeling that there could be avenues of exploration.
//end of review goes here.
I hope some of this stuff makes sense because I was half paying attention to this and half on the Olympics. And now I must go figure out how to adapt this week’s top ten Tuesday post.