A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Mindscape is a fantasy adventure with little academic content, but it highly values learning, both in the studies the kids are pursuing during their year at the Academy and in their work to come.
Forgiveness, redemption, friendship, and loyalty are major themes.
Positive Role Models
Chris has a lot of adversity to deal with, from his dysfunctional home life to the fact that someone wants to kill him, and it doesn't help that nobody believes him when he sees his pursuer. Despite this, he always tries to do the right thing and willingly puts himself in danger to help his loved ones. Adult protectors Ron and John give him plenty of good advice and protect him and the other kids. Chris and his friends are sometimes on the outs here, but they come through for one another when it counts, often in unexpected ways. (One of his quests requires Chris to sneak into a heavy metal concert without a ticket, a practice parents may want to note and discourage in real life.)
Violence & Scariness
Several characters are in danger of violent death. Protagonist Chris spends most of the book dodging the mind control and murderous revenge of Ernest Genever, whose brother was killed by Chris in Book 1. Although the intent is sometimes benign and sometimes evil, exploring people's minds without their consent is at the story's core and occurs frequently. As the book begins, Chris uses telekinetic powers against a bully. Later he finds himself tossed around in the air at a heavy metal concert. One character's mind is wiped blank by another's mind-invasive techniques.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The villain bribes a man to distract one of the kids' teachers by pretending to be in love with her; the flirtation includes hand-kissing and mention of kisses and foot massages. An attraction is quietly growing between Chris and classmate Daisy, his most consistently reliable friend.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mindscape, the sequel to The Ability, brings more thrills, suspense, danger -- and surprises -- as 12-year-old protagonist Chris Lane and his classmates continue to cultivate their ability to explore and manipulate other people's minds. Some parts of the story may be too scary or intense for younger readers: Chris' mother is constantly depressed because his father was killed in the war; Chris is haunted by guilt over the death of a boy he was forced to kill to protect others, and the boy's brother is bent on avenging his twin's death. A villain kidnaps people and tries to kill them. The ethical and emotional implications of mind control -- and specifically the ability to erase unwanted memories -- are important themes. One of the adult characters gets a comic transformation when the villain bribes a man to pretend he's in love with her.
Is It Any Good?
MINDSCAPE offers engaging characters and heartwarming moments along with scary scenes and quite a few surprises. Although it takes a bit longer than The Ability to get going and probably spends a bit too much time dwelling on Chris' internal confusion (maybe he really IS imagining it all? Wouldn't his friends believe him if they were really his friends?), it includes a cliffhanger ending that potentially changes everything.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.