Tuesday, June 11, 2013

REVIEW: The Ability by M.M. Vaughan

The Ability The Ability by M.M. Vaughan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book was a mildly enjoyable read despite the sadness that rained throughout the first quarter of the book.

+ the characters

As a denizen of La La Land, I didn’t like the sad beginning. Chris was forced to shoulder adult responsibilities because his father was dead and his mother was in perpetual depression because of it. My heart bled as I watched him steal money for food. Even the primary villains, Dulcia and her twin sons, were sympathetic, with Dulcia’s childhood ruined, betrayed by her incompetent allies who failed to rescue her, and her twin sons adopted for the sole purpose of carrying out her vengeance against her ex-allies, though maybe not Mortimer, one of the twins, who delighted in cruelty. Anyway, Dulcia was so sympathetic that I actually wanted her to succeed.

I didn’t sympathize with the other villains but I still took issue. Even though they were only disposable villains I didn’t like how they were portrayed as a caricature because it made the characters silly and the writing juvenile. Mean adults were mean.

The nice adults were no better. While they were not caricatures, their characterization fell flat. The book practically grouped all the adult characters as naughty or nice. It didn’t help that some of them were incompetent and should have done better. For example, Dulcia acted too recklessly at the end carrying out the final stage of her vengeance for someone who prided herself on patience and meticulousness, who wanted success at any cost. Ron and John, as guards, acted more like people fresh out of military training than people who had twelves years in special forces and who served as personal bodyguards to the Queen of England.

As for Sir Bentley, he was nice and competent but even he managed to disappoint me in a scene near the end (chapter 17) and quite severely. I took exception with how clueless he was regarding the severity of Chris’ home problems and his harsher-than-necessary reprimand of Chris’ AWOL. I couldn’t believe the old dude specifically reprimand Chris for using his Ability to avoid paying for his taxi rides when he knew Chris didn’t have the money. First, it was hugely insensitive in regard to Chris’ home problems. Second, Chris only did it because he was desperate to keep his promise to a good person and be honorable, which deserved some admiration. Took integrity too far, what the fuck does that even mean? Third, in comparison to the other issues at hand such as selected people being killed and how Chris could have been killed it was trivial. Fourth, Sir Bentley was a leader of a spy agency, one that recruited and used kids to do secret government things that put them in danger and ordered them to do not particularly ethical things in pursuit of the greater good. He was not in a firm position to judge, especially so harshly. It was awfully hypocritical. I felt so bad for Chris that I wanted to hug him for an hour and so mad at Sir Bentley that I wanted to bitchslap the old dude so hard that he would feel the pain for at least 24 hours. That scene completely turned me off from Sir Bentley for the rest of the book and spoiled any affection the character might have earned from me.

The adolescent characters, on the other hand, were convincing in their roles and my favorite characters. My only gripe with the kids, the students of Myers Holt, barring Chris, was that I wish they were more mature. I wished they showed the seriousness their circumstance greatly deserved and approached their missions with more care. I realized it a Middle Grade book, that of course the kids would act like kids, but I have read many books with mature adolescents that I am too comfortable with a certain level of maturity to make big concessions for the characters’ age.

It’s not a gripe but I also wished there was more focus on the students, which showed how much I loved these kids. I got to know Chris well but only because he was the protagonist. I wanted to know more about Daisy, Philip, Lexi, Rex, and Sebastian. I appreciated that the bunch, including Chris, at least showed some character growth, especially Rex who thankfully was not typecast as the class bully. I really liked that Chris discovered courage and self-esteem and how he strived to keep his promises.

+ the plot

The pace was brisk, partly because the story was told in alternating multiple third person POV with Chris’ POV as the predominant POV. When events with Chris started to wind down, the story switched POV to keep the pace brisk. I really liked the date that prefaced each chapter because it kept order and prevented confusion in the plot.

The ending, I didn’t care for its bittersweet tone, with Chris briefly returning home to his pitiable mother and its sudden melodrama with Ernest ridiculously swearing vengeance against Chris. How did Ernest even manage to carry a dead body and escape an area full of guards and Ability-using kids? Melodramatic and contrived. The book overextended itself to leave a loose end for a sequel.

In Conclusion

I rate The Ability 3-stars for I liked it. The book had issues but it was a good, solid read. I really liked the eponymous magic and its mind map where thoughts and memories and the likes assumed the construction of a city. I thought it was creative and reminded me a bit of a more straightforward, less confusing version of the movie Inception.

Goodreads | Amazon

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