If you listen to movie reviews, you might hear a comment along the lines of, “The leading actor carried the movie.” In the book Forbidden Mind by Kimberly Kinrade, the female character of Sam possesses enough charm to pull me into this quick paranormal read.
The story itself reminds me of the television series Dollhouse. In the latter, a company hires out “dolls” to wealthy clients for varied purposes from romantic interludes to high-risk criminal enterprises. Dolls have their original memories wiped and exist in a child-like blank state until they’re programmed with new personalities for their new engagement. In Forbidden Mind, a company called Rent-A-Kid hires out paranormal spies to rich and powerful clients. These spies don’t have their original memories wiped, but instead are raised and educated within the company’s confines until the age of eighteen. Whenever spies finish an engagement, they’re drugged and the worse memories of their engagement are erased. As you can see, Forbidden Mind avoids being a clone.
Unfortunately, the Rent-A-Kid setup is underdeveloped. I never did figure out how spies are briefed about their clients or their cases. Perhaps for that reason, I remain confused about the events of the foundational first chapter: Why do clients hire young people instead of adults? How do young people gain access to the bad guys? And for that matter, why was Sam hired for the particular client featured in Chapter One? After a couple rereads of the first chapter, I did figure out that Sam is digging up dirt on a bad guy by reading his mind. Moreover, when Sam discovers that her client intends to use the dirt to bribe the bad guy rather than send him to jail, Sam gets herself in trouble by getting involved.
Unfortunately, this entire setup seems more like a clever ploy to hook readers into Forbidden Mind rather than being actually critical to the plot. Perhaps, as the old adage among writers goes, Kinrade should have thrown out the first chapter. From Chapter Two on, everything made sense: Just when Sam is due for release on her eighteenth birthday, she develops a mysterious sickness. While recovering, Sam receives a telepathetic message from new boy Luke. In what sometimes reads like an information dump, readers learn that Luke has been kidnapped. Moreover, the timing of Sam’s so-called flu is no coincidence. Intrigued? So was I.
Yet the real reason I kept reading is Sam. She is the perfect blend of a savvy spy and the nice girl next door. In one paragraph, she tells how: “This level of wealth didn’t impress me the way it might some. We lived well at Rent-A-Kid, with the best of everything—I’d endured so many formal dinners, etiquette training, and socialization classes…. After all, we had to impress and fit in with some of the wealthiest people in the world.” Later, Sam admits to craving hot showers so she can sponge away the guilt she feels over helping to destroy the lives of others just to satisfy rich and powerful clients. While minor characters too often received token descriptions of body and apparel, Kinrade has successfully created a charming main character.
There’s something else about Sam. One of the rules of Rent-A-Kid is to never leave a trace of one’s presence. When Sam ends up caring for the son of a target, she leaves behind a photo the two had taken together at a country fair. It had been the first time Sam felt like a kid. While the rest of Forbidden Mind deals instead with Sam’s mysterious sickness and the new boy Luke, this is one of my favorite moments in the book because it shows how torn Sam feels about her spy life. Another scene I like happens later, when Sam realizes that not only does she have the ability to read minds, but she can also control people’s thoughts and actions. After she “convinces” a nurse through mind control alone to look the other way while she sets about freeing Luke, Sam questions her ethics. Indeed, throughout Forbidden Mind, Sam often questions the reasons for her powers, how they can be used, and what type of person she wants to be. By instilling Sam with these strong morals, Kinrade gives her that extra depth often missing from other main characters in paranormal books.
Because of its sometimes amateur style, Forbidden Mind is almost a near miss. Yet the plot is suspenseful enough to make me want to know what happens next. Moreover, Sam is a refreshing teen, in that she lacks the angst that weighs down too many fictional portrayals of adolescents. Combined with the short length, it substituted nicely for my common evening fare of a one-hour television show.
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
How would you rate this book?
- Forbidden Mind (all-things-andy-gavin.com)
- Review: Lexieworld by Kimberly Kinrade (tgayer.wordpress.com)