A YA thriller blends sci-fi, post-apocalyptic fiction, and a coming-of-age story.
In a near future when humanity has been laid low by a global pandemic, the vaccine that essentially saves the human race from eradication causes unforeseen side effects: a small percentage of the population is born with inexplicable mental abilities. Called psions, these children with intensely blue “starburst” eyes and unimaginable powers are forcibly separated from their families and sent to special institutions, which are more like prisons than schools. The storyline revolves around Devon McWilliams, a young psion (with the power to communicate with plants) whose failed attempt to escape his psi facility in the Badlands of North Dakota lands him in a mysterious government lockup with other detainees. Headed for death—or worse—the seven young psions include a butt-kicking telepath named Bai Lee Chen, the daughter of a U.S. senator, and a girl named Alya with healing powers who turns out to be Devon’s love interest. They must figure out a way to escape and find the mythical Psionic Underground Network (“They were all trapped within the same sinking vessel,” Devon muses. “In order to survive, they would have to find a way to work together”). Powered by adept writing, relentless pacing, numerous action scenes, and a cast of fully realized and authentic characters, this novel is undeniably a page-turner. But it is not without its faults. There are stories within the main story here: first-person narratives told from varying characters’ perspectives. While some of these are fully fleshed out, others seem rushed and incomplete. Additionally, the relationship between Devon and Alya comes across as contrived. The biggest flaw, however, involves the conclusion. After building tension throughout the entire tale, the book delivers an action sequence at the end that’s far too abrupt. And although Brotherlin (Monsters in the M.A.C., 1996) adequately examines potentially weighty YA themes like acceptance and self-confidence, some readers may be left wanting more thematic depth and profundity.
A fun, fast-paced tale about seven young, immensely powerful prisoners.