Monday, April 21, 2014

The Hypnotists (The Hypnotists #1) by Gordon Korman

This fast-paced novel starts out exciting only to backfire like a sputtering car. Gordon Korman has terrific descriptions that involve all the senses and allow readers to get sucked into the plot like a "speeding jaggernaut." Chapter one was my favorite and reminded me of the movie, "Speed." The promising plot went downhill from there with its predictability and pacing that has the reader knowing long in advance what is happening before the protagonist does. I'm okay with a little bit of this but not pages and pages and at every major turning point in the plot. Jackson, who goes by the nickname Jax, was annoyingly naive at figuring out situations and reading people. What had potential became a frustrating read that had me skimming pages in order to finish it pronto.

Jax is playing in a championship basketball game when his team wins as a result of the opponent's superstar having a poor night shooting. Jax notices the star is off his game and dazed. Every time Jax makes a suggestion the star does what Jax says, such as missing a free throw or shots he'd normally make. While Jax thought it odd he didn't think anything of it. After the game, he tells his parents about visions he's getting and he goes to see a psychiatrist whose diagnosis is corny and irritating to Jax. Jax tells the psychiatrist to jump out the window which he promptly tries to do. They are on the 35th floor and while the reader knows what is going on Jax is still not putting two-and-two together. When Jax's best friend Tommy points out all the weird things Jax has done in the past convincing others to do things such as join the debate team or win over a girl, Jax still doesn't face the facts that he has the power to influence people. When Jax hypnotizes a hypnotist and still doesn't get the obvious, I was grinding my teeth at the dull-witted protagonist that is supposedly smart.

Jax gets invited to a school for gifted kids that shows an unhealthy competitiveness between students and a manipulative director. It would have been more fun trying to figure out if the director was a good guy or bad guy but it was so obvious that it took much of the tension out of the plot for me. "The Colossus Rises" by Peter Lerangis has a similar plot that kept me guessing well into the story the loyalty of the person who could be a villain or good guy. Jax's blind belief in what he sees on the surface with no thought as to different motives made him too simple at times and lacking in complexity which for me is what makes a character interesting. When Jax becomes involved in a political intrigue involving the future president of the United States, his entire family and friends become targets by the killers.

The descriptions are great and action scenes well written, it's just the plot is predictable in too many parts. While many will like the action, I doubt they'll be as irritated as me with Jax. Jax's superpowers are explained in depth and well. This was probably the most interesting part, although because he has so many visions (before figuring out his powers) that it got repetitive at times. It didn't make sense that Jax wanted Dr. Mako's approval so badly and blindly followed him. Mako was using a form of mind control on the students and while the other students talked about the school cynically, Jax still refused to believe things weren't right even though the evidence showed otherwise. While they followed Mako in some parts the end seemed contradictory when they scold Jax for not seeing the truth. After meeting Axel Braintree, Jax had some doubt regarding Mako, but it took 70 pages before he sees what the reader already knows. The slow pace and unveiling of the plot drove me crazy.

The authentic moments of being a teenager were well done such as the kids practicing hypnosis on each other even though it was banned which is like trying to "outlaw towel-snapping in a locker room." And Tommy tossing an airplane at girl and making a fool out of himself because he has a crush on her and doesn't know how to get her attention reminds me of the 5th grade girls and boys taking books from each other because they are starting to notice gender differences and want the opposite sex's attention.

The Guild meeting chapter is presented as too one-sided without showing the complexity of the situation. The abusers use their gift for personal gain and are trying to lead honest lives. But a Wall Street woman turning to waitressing? I don't think so. The dialogue showed that the group had no focus. The opposing forces could have been presented in a more politically balanced way such as Axel showing some of his brains that suddenly appear at the end. Actually at the end when Axel is explaining why he stole, the dialogue with Jax was more authentic and didn't make him look like a doofus that was too cryptic about Mako.

The subplot of Tommy didn't materialize like I expected. Tommy is a flat character that doesn't really get much depth through his dialogue with Jax. When Tommy helps Jax on the night of the robbery and later when Jax is suffering to the point of being debilitating, Tommy doesn't really help him in any meaningful way. I thought Tommy might go and get Axel or find the group but he lets Jax figure it out on his own. His character doesn't grow or change internally and fizzles a bit as the story continues and he fails to act.  I also thought the tie-in of his color-blindness and not being hypnotized by Jax to Jax suddenly being able to hypnotize him as too abrupt. 

When Jax makes a video and then doesn't do anything for a week I couldn't believe it took him so long to go to the only person that could help him. When he does I'm so disgusted with his character for waiting so long that I started speed-reading through ink. When Jax forgets his metro card, it was the frosting on my disgusted cake. Normally I like Korman and I know many kids will like the action in this book, but you'd have to hypnotize me to get me to read the sequel.

2 Smileys

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