by Robin Epstein
To be published on December 29, 2015
by Soho Teen
Source: ARC giveaway at BEA
Synopsis from Goodreads: Expelled from high school months shy of graduation—her acceptance to Columbia revoked due to vigilante justice gone awry—Kassandra Black is sent to work in her great-uncle Brian’s lab at Henley University. She’s helping with his HEAR (Henley Engineering Anomalies Research) program, and hopefully getting him to put in a good word for her to attend Henley instead. She’s got to go somewhere, after all. But as she gets to know the other HEAR students, it becomes clear that she overlooked the “Anomalies” part of their acronym—these kids are here to help Brian run experiments that gauge ESP capacity. They’ve each been selected and recruited, including, to her astonishment, Kass herself. But ESP? She doesn’t buy any of it. And even if it were real, she definitely isn’t psychic. Yet with each new test, she finds herself more frightened. Kass really can communicate telepathically; she can even glimpse the future. When one of her fellow HEAR students is murdered, Kass must try to forget everything she knows about herself and her family and learn to trust those who share her remarkable gift.
My take: As a kid, I loved books and movies about kids with extra sensory perception. I was obsessed with movies like Escape to Witch Mountain. I hoped I might have ESP. (Sadly, no. When it was time to guess the second book in the ACOTAR series, I was dead wrong...) Still, I had high hopes for this book.
But while the premise of HEAR seemed perfect for me, the execution left me wanting more. The plot of HEAR relies heavily on things that happen off the page -- things that took place in the past, or in people's minds, or that the main characters aren't present for -- and that sucked the tension right out of the story for me. I also didn't feel like the characters were well developed enough for me to become invested in them. This could have been because the book involves a fair amount of explanation and backstory, leaving less time for characterization. But again, weirdly, most of the development of the main character happens when she tells the reader about things that she did in the past, like the "vigilante justice" mentioned in the synopsis. That seemed way more interesting to me than anything she was actually doing in the story.
HEAR does end with some resolution, but then there's a major new development suggesting the possibility of more books. I'm not sure if that's the case or not, but it makes sense because this book felt primarily like set-up.
If you're looking for a book about a Scooby gang with special powers and ties to the government, my book-ESP (totally a thing!) tells me that you might enjoy the The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. And if you've read and enjoyed HEAR or any other YA ESP books, please tell me in comments!