Don’t Even Think about It by Sarah Mlynowski

A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was provided by Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!) My review was in no way influenced by this consideration.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

I’m really struggling to start this review, and I think I’ve put my finger on my problem: Don’t Even Think About It is kind of a muddle. I’d like to start by giving you a little plot synopsis, but I don’t even know whose name to start typing: there is no main character, no voice through whose eyes this story is told.

The idea behind the plot is that a whole homeroom of high-schoolers get a tainted batch of flu vaccine that makes them start experiencing bizarre neurological symptoms, including telepathy. They’re able to read their friends’ and family’s minds, including each others’, which creates all kinds of problems. The premise is kind of fun, but Mlynowski’s choice not to assign a voice or personality to the narration is just plain strange. It’s the kind of convention that can work, when done well (see Rebecca, which gives its narrator no name, but plenty of personality–the whole book is told in first person through her eyes). Don’t Even, though, is narrated (mostly! Except sometimes…) in third person via a collective group who are all speaking from the same perspective–a sort of hive-mind, perhaps? The problem with this is…well, it’s several things:

  1. It lacks focus. Without a main character, there’s really no one for me to relate to immediately, as a reader. It creates an odd sort of mental barrier between me and the people in the story, from the get-go.
  2. It’s distracting. Sometimes, we do get an opportunity to see a scene played out between just one of the “espies” and his/her family or friends. Just when we start to care about that person and what’s happening to them, we get a jarring shift to the hive-mind commentator, usually with unnecessary affirmations of what we’ve already gleaned from the writing, like, “We agree. Making out at an off-Broadway show is unacceptable.” OK. But we already covered that. And we’ve abruptly shifted from third-person past to first-person present. So that’s…weird.
  3. It conflicts with the way the characters are written. The commentary is always, “we thought,” “we agreed,” but when we’re able to see all 22 of the espies together, it’s clear that few of them agree on anything.


Anyway. I felt like the story was kind of fun, at least. The plot points made sense within the frame of the concept, but the character development suffered a lot because of the narrative style. I liked Olivia. Other than that, I didn’t care a whole lot about what happened to anyone. The plot, itself, didn’t develop nearly as much as I would have liked, either–it was just a little overly simplistic. The solution to the teens’ problem just randomly presented itself, and then was just as randomly abandoned. Overall, it felt underdone.

Entertaining, but not great. I’d be interested to read other things by Mlynowski, though, and see what she does with a different plot.

2.5 stars. Fat section of language right near the end, lots of references to high schoolers’ sexual activity. Don’t Even Think About It is on shelves now!

2.5 Stars

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