One of my favorite life mottos is K.I.S.S. -- "keep it simple, stupid." That goes for my romantic life, my professional life, and especially my writing life. However, that's just MY personal philosophy, and I don't expect -- or even want -- everyone else to live by it. In fact, I love when authors juggle lots of characters. I love when they weave multiple plot lines into complex, colorful tapestries. And I love smart, wham-bam twists that complicate everything.
I'm looking at you, Laini Taylor and Melina Marchetta.
And now after reading PIVOT POINT and MIND GAMES, I'm also looking at Kasie West and Kiersten White. Both books use dual narratives, in totally different ways but to same powerful effect.
"YOU DON'T CHOOSE THIS."
PIVOT POINT's two tracks are alternate realities, which our heroine Addie has to choose between. That's her superpower: being able to see what will happen if she chooses X and what will happen if she choses Y, before she actually has to choose -- which means she can always make the "right" choice. The only problem is, what if both choices suck?
Even though paranormal abilities serve as the engine for this story, I thought it had a surprisingly contemporary feel. Addie is a (more or less) normal teen trying to work her way through normal problems -- like managing her relationship with her mother, making new friends in high school, and keeping everyone from finding out just how unusual she really is. There are two fun love interests (but no love triangle -- the benefit of living 2 separate lives!) as well as a hint of mystery. But what I loved most were the rich, moving relationships between characters.
TAP TAP TAP
MIND GAMES's double trouble comes in the form of sisters who take turns narrating the story from their very unique perspectives. Annie is blind and Fia is, well, a little bit crazy. (I say that with love!) See, she's pretty powerful, but she's also young and very protective of her sister, and those weaknesses get exploited to coerce her into doing bad things.
So once again, we have a story about choice, but unlike Addie in PIVOT POINT, Fia doesn't get to know ahead of time which path is right. She simply acts on instinct, and then she has to live with the choices she makes -- and worse, the choices she isn't allowed to make.
MIND GAMES doesn't spell things out for readers, but personally I love getting to connect the dots and fill in some of the blanks for myself. Makes me feel like I'm teamed up with the author. Also, what I really, really, really loved about this book was how complex each and every character was. There isn't simply good or evil, right or wrong -- there's the whole messy spectrum in between.
As I said, these two books are anything but simple. And they both have clever, wrenching endings that brought tears to my eyes. Happily, they're quite satisfying as standalones -- but I think we can expect sequels (or at least companion novels) in the near future.