A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Ability is a brilliant, suspenseful debut from M.M. Vaughan about kids with telepathic powers being trained in mind control as part of a secret operation. Some young readers may find certain aspects of the story bewildering or scary: a young girl is abandoned and left for dead by her companions, people have their minds essentially wiped clean, animals are abused as part of the kids' training, and the protagonist's mom, devastated by the death of his soldier dad, is in a state of mental collapse and has spent seven years sitting in a chair surrounded by trash. The darkness of The Ability is essential to the good-vs.-evil plot, as well as to the development of the characters and their ability to rise above bad beginnings. It also offers food for thought about such big issues as revenge, national security, and adults exploiting kids and animals to achieve their various purposes.
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What's the story?
A mysterious secret operation involving telepathic kids goes badly awry, with one boy killed and a girl deserted by her companions and kidnapped by evil people. Thirty years later, in present-day London, 12-year-old Christopher Lane has been lying, stealing, and doing anything else he can to keep his family going, because his mother has been in a state of mental collapse since his soldier father was killed seven years earlier. His bleak life takes an unexpected turn when he's given an unusual test and suddenly whisked from his awful school to a top-secret government program where he and other kids with THE ABILITY get intensive mind-control training. Meanwhile, not far away, twin boys are getting the same training from their scary mom. How these plots converge, and what they reveal about the characters, make for a thrilling, touching, and thought-provoking read, whose ending leaves plenty of room for sequels.
Is it any good?
This is a brilliantly crafted tale. First-time author Monica Meira Vaughan, born to South American parents living in Spain who moved to London when she was 5, taught herself English by watching Sesame Street and reading lots of Roald Dahl. This foundation is evident here, from the quality of the writing to the twistiness of the plot and the complexity of the real-life issues the characters are dealing with (not to mention one kid who comes from Spain and speaks fractured English). There are strong themes of responsibility, loyalty, and friendship, and complex ethical questions. Iacopo Bruno's Gothic-tinged illustrations add to the intrigue.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why books about mind control are so popular. What others do you know?
Do you know kids like Chris who are dealing with dysfunctional parents? How do they cope?
Do you think Mortimer and Ernest's mom is justified in pursuing her horrible revenge? What would you do if you were in her place and had been through what she'd been through?
- Author: M.M. Vaughan
- Illustrator: Iacopo Bruno
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs, Science and nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
- Publication date: April 23, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.