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The Strange Power by L. J. Smith
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The Strange Power

by L. J. Smith

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285239,557 (3.73)2 / 4

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I enjoyed but didn't LOVE this book. The plot was quite suspenseful, which was nice, but I sort of felt like it went way too fast. Like I would have appreciated a bit more build-up of detail about the characters, setting, etc. Also the whole "I AM IN LOVE WITH ROB" thing was a bit much to me. So after one day, she looooves him in this groundbreaking way? I was prepared to believe she was admitting infatuation but omg... real love? :P "I LOOKED INTO HIS GOLDEN EYES" ugh... ( )
  kirako | Oct 16, 2015 |
I've written before about my adolescent love for L. J. Smith's writing, particularly the Night World series. But, even at thirteen, I was never much for vampires. I was always a more fervent fan of her Dark Visions universe, described in a trilogy of novels about beautiful--and psychic--Kaitlyn Fairchild, who, in her senior year of high school, is shipped off to a mysterious research institute for truly gifted teenagers.Revisiting The Strange Power as an adult, I can see why these appealed to me more than Smith's more-traditional horror/supernatural fare. As a kid, I devoured non-fiction (and I use that term loosely, of course) about ESP and psychic powers; the Dark Visions trilogy is like a fictional realization of all those volumes I found under Dewey Decimal heading number 130. Smith somehow manages to make things like psychokinesis, precognition, and energy crystals fairly believable, without resorting to the infodumping that she relies on in her horror books. Kaitlyn's universe felt impressively real to me, even as a skeptical adult reader.This is thanks, in part, to the strong third-person narration here. Smith's Night World books use first-person point of view, which sometimes results in cringe-worthy sentimentality. The prose here, though sometimes slightly edging on purple, is much, much stronger, thanks in part to the distance from the adolescent characters. The writing is clear, functional, but appropriately dark in tone, a nice complement to the quick pace of the plot.As Kaitlyn settles in to her new life in California, she learns that the institution dedicated to exploring her psychic powers is not all that it seems. She also becomes involved with two of her dreamy adolescent housemates, the golden-boy healer Rob, and Gabriel, a pale-as-Johnny-Depp psychic "vampire" and former criminal. The love triangle here is much stronger, and more interesting, than those we've seen in certain other recent books. Smith doesn't give us an obvious victor here: both Gabriel and Rob are appealing, though in completely different ways, and they're well-developed, too.Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Lewis and Anna, the other two psychics at the Zetes Institute. Here, in what is probably the most problematic feature of these books, Smith relies on dated racial stereotyping to create her characters. Lewis Chao, Chinese, controls technology, likes gadgets, and is essentially neuter; while white boys Gabriel and Rob are immediately cast in Kaitlyn's mind as romantic interests, Lewis becomes a sexless younger brother archetype. Anna Whiteraven, meanwhile, is Native American, has a "totem animal" and can communicate with wildlife. She is described as "serene" and "peaceful" and doesn't have much of a personality beyond this--though these are positive stereotypes, they're no less, well, stereotypical. Of course, Smith wrote these books in the early nineties; her gestures towards inclusion of non-white characters may have seemed like a positive effort then, but I do think that it's a shame this book is still a story of a white girl, torn between two white boys, with characters of color as no more than window dressing.Still, this is a quickly paced and enjoyable read. It's a slender volume, reflecting the YA market of its time, but nevertheless both well-realized and consistently exciting. While much newer YA often suffers from saggy-baggyness, The Strange Power feels tight and tightly edited. I look forward to revisiting the rest of the series. ( )
  PhoebeReading | Nov 24, 2010 |
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Kaitlyn Fairchild was frightened by her uncanny talent, by the prophetic drawings that isolated her at school. Until she was invited to California, to attend the Zetes Institute with four other psychically gifted students, in return for a college scholarship.… (more)

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