by Sarah Mlynowski
Publisher: Random House Children's
Genre: Contemporary, Drama, YA
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Source: Received in exchange for review
We weren't always like this.
We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn't expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.
Since we've kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what's coming. Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same. So stop obsessing about your ex. We're always listening.
Don’t Even Think About It had quite an interesting premise (which was completely unrealistic but I was willing to put that aside) to me which happened to grab my attention. After reading a lot of more serious books recently, I needed a light and fluffy contemporary to switch things up.
Sadly enough Don’t Even Think About It didn’t do that for me. Contrary to the title, thinking was very much involved with this novel. It’s told in a sole shared point of view to begin with, one where everybody who has contracted ESP tells the story.This means the story isn’t narrated by a single person but rather as a collective group, using the pronoun ‘we’. This definitely took some getting used to, as I’m not used to stories being told this way so it was initially off putting. However it made sense in the fact that these are a group of people can all read each other’s mind, therefore one person’s thoughts are heard by everybody. This point of view still managed to be hard to keep track of though, as 22 plus people had contracted ESP. They would also interject random thoughts that didn’t really seem important or necessary to the story.
Once you finally got used to the odd ‘we’ point of view, Don’t Even Think About It decided to move on. It went on to focus more on six particular students who had ESP, with the other “espies” interjecting their thoughts. A few times it would jump back into the ‘we’ point of view, but for the majority of the time it focused on the six students.
I wish that the six students had been better picked, I really enjoyed only two of them. The rest felt undeveloped and bland. I didn’t feel any connection to them nor did I relate to them. I simply just felt like an uninterested outside observer. It made most of the characters not very memorable and very vanilla. Most of them didn’t have great character development nor any sustenance to them. Backstory was non-existent for the majority of the characters. I wish the author had chosen other characters to focus on. Some of the ones she rarely used actually interested me the most and I believe had great potential.
The one character I quite enjoyed was Olivia. She was a character who suffered with anxiety. I believe the portrayal of this was realistic and so was her development throughout the story. Her concerns felt like ones that I could sympathize with. She doesn’t magically become void of anxiety, but does grow a bit of confidence as the story goes on. Olivia seems to be the most round character in this story. She was also one of the few characters who actually had a relationship with her family. For the majority of the characters in the book, their parents seem to be non-existent.
Mackenzie was a character I couldn’t stand. She was flat, there was really nothing more to her then a pretty face. Oh, and a horrible personality prone to making stupid decisions. Mackenzie has a super sweet boyfriend, whom she cheats on. This isn’t a spoiler as you’re made aware of what happens fairly early on. The person she cheated on her boyfriend with? Somebody Mackenzie had a previous fling with who had clearly displayed that he had zero interest in having an actual relationship with her, other than one that was purely sexual.
Not only did Mackenzie make that awful decision, she’s also a horrible best friend to Tess. Mackenzie continuously lies to Tess. Even worse then that is Mackenzie’s rude and uncalled for comments about her weight, a subject that Mackenzie would definitely know that Tess is highly self-conscious about. Why would Mackenzie know about her Tess and her previous issues with her weight? Oh, maybe because Tess actually trusts undeserving Mackenzie with the fact that she previously suffered bulimia. Yet Mackenzie continues to treat like horribly.
“If you went to the gym twice a week, you’d be gorgeous!”
“Your mom is crazy, I’m not siding with her,” Mackenzie said, but she couldn’t help thinking, eight pounds, maybe.
The above quotes clearly showcase Mackenzie’s truly disgraceful attitude. It’s bad enough that Tess has her mother bitching on about her perfectly fine weight, but having your supposed best friend join on it? Unforgivable. I couldn’t stand the book whenever Mackenzie was involved and even though there was a supposed reason for her behavior, it felt weak. I don’t think much could make me enjoy Mackenzie’s character, but the flimsy excuse for her actions definitely didn’t make me enjoy Mackenzie. Sadly Tess didn’t feel the same way and would continuously forgive Mackenzie after being angry for about 5 seconds. Then Mackenzie would go on to insult Tess again, it was all a vicious cycle. The fact that this poisonous friendship was presented in a novel marketed for young adults was frankly disconcerting for me. Since nothing was done to prove that friendship wasn’t in fact okay, it was like Don’t Even Think About It was perpetuating that toxic friendships are okay. Promoting this to potentially impressionable teens doesn’t sit right with me at all.
Another thing I had a quibble with was how this book is garnered for teens. As a teenager myself, I found myself not enjoying the book. I found the book to have a very immature tone, the humor was quite juvenile. I was definitely rolling my eyes more than laughing. One of the characters has a nickname of BJ, something that is supposed to be a joke. Yeah, I think my 12 year old brother is the only person who would find that hilarious. You can tell this book tries soooooo freaking hard to be relatable to us young adults and it simply doesn’t work. It came out contrived and stereotypical. I honestly think that this book would be better suited for middle grade audience, if you took out Mackenzie’s character and toned down a few other aspects. I feel like that audience may have enjoyed it more? Or not, maybe no age group would be able to connect with this one.
The premise? Honestly it took a backseat to juvenile drama and romances that were so plain and suffered from a lack of chemistry. If the premise lived up to it’s potential then perhaps I would have enjoyed the book more.
Overall this a book that is highly character driven, which is a pretty big issue when the characters are either completely vanilla or unlikable. The humor and target age for this one seems completely off base. The odd way the POV was done was pretty distracting and led to a whole lot of run on sentences. Sadly, I wouldn’t recommend this one.
~Thank you Random House Children’s for sending me this copy!~