Wearing skirts she's made out of Mylar balloons or potato sacks, shirts she's sewed out of torn umbrellas or her absentee dad's abandoned clothing, narrator Kristi marches to her alternative high school, prepared to take on a world that hates her-she's pretty sure of it, given that she can read minds. Ryan, far outstripping the level of plotting and characterizations in her debut, Shadow Falls, turns in an exceptional second novel. Although Kristi is hostile to her mother, classmates and teachers, and genuinely nasty to total strangers, she makes herself vulnerable to readers. She is also consistently funny in a cynical, teenage way: "I live in a suburb of a suburb. I'm surrounded by the offspring of professional people who attend parent-teacher meetings and volunteer on Election Day." Events cast doubt Kristi's mind-reading skills, but given the author's solid portraiture, readers will nevertheless want to trust Kristi, even before she learns to trust herself. Ryan works in both a romance and a divorce, and reverses Kristi's instinctive satirizing of people who care about her-and does it all with an abundance of wit. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
KLIATT - Aimee Cole
Ryan has crafted an honest and endearing look at the inner life of an extremely likeable teenager who seems to have psychic tendencies. Kristi has a father who left home, a mother who works late every night, a touchy-feely school, and an ex-best friend turned enemy, as well as an unrequited crush. Listening to what everyone thinks about her is exhausting. Kristi must shut out her mother's sad thoughts when they're home alone together, and at school she's forever dodging the gross fantasies of the boys who stare and send their thoughts her way. Worst of all, however, are the comments that float towards her from Gusty, a boy she has a crush on, who labels her as "sick." Armed with her ear buds piping music into her head, her cat who constantly purrs affirmation and affection, and her snarky humor, Kristi is able to face some tough situations. However, with some real contemplation, Kristi may discover that perhaps her psychic powers aren't accurate. Ryan's novel humorously explores the mind of a teenager grappling with issues of self-esteem, creativity, and self-worth. Teens will identify with Kristi and care about what she's going through. Reviewer: Aimee Cole
Children's Literature - Janis Flint-Ferguson
Kristi Carmichael reads people's minds. She knows exactly what they think of her, her problem with body image and the very unusual clothes she designs for herself. She and her mother live in the same house, but rarely talk. In fact, she is careful to make sure that she is not alone with her mother for long and she sure doesn't want her mother to know that the allergic reaction her mother is having is because of the cat Kristi keeps locked, literally padlocked, in her bedroom. At school, Kristi struggles to fit in. She has a crush on her former best friend's brother and she is mildly interested in the new boy who shows an interest in her. But more than anything, she is protecting herself. She has built an unlovable persona around herself in the wake of a family crisis and it is not until her dad flies in for a visit that those relationships and their impact are clear even to Kristi herself. Young adults will both love and hate Kristi. Her story mirrors the stories of many high school girls as they deal with their self-image in the midst of fluctuating circumstances. Her story reminds readers that although the average adolescent cannot read minds, we sometimes know exactly what others are thinking, because we ourselves have planted the images there. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
School Library Journal
Kristi is an outcast at her progressive high school. She's a nonconformist who makes her own clothes out of found objects and deliberately alienates the people around her. She describes herself as ugly and as a bitch. She also happens to have the ability to read minds. The negative thoughts she perceives from others cause her to reinforce the wall she has built around herself. She shut herself off from the world when her father left two years earlier, and hasn't trusted anyone since. She deliberately antagonizes her mother and plays cruel tricks on strangers. When a new student named Mallory starts at her school, Kristi comes to see herself reflected in his problems and finds that she doesn't want to be the angry outcast forever. As she opens up more to the people around her, she finds that she is not as perceptive about their opinions as she had thought, including those of her childhood crush, Gusty. Ryan's novel offers a fresh and funny teen voice. Kristi's sarcastic observations on her family and peers make this book a quick read. Many teens will relate to her feelings of isolation and the defensiveness it causes. If the book has one weakness, though, it is that the circumstances that allow Kristi to heal and open up happen a little too conveniently to be believable. Her seemingly deep emotional and self-esteem problems are resolved too quickly and easily. Still, this book will find an audience with girls looking for a strong heroine.-Stephanie L. Petruso, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Odenton, MD
Psychic Kristi learns that people aren't always the sum of their thoughts. With her ability to read minds, love of opera and funky homemade clothes, Kristi has more or less embraced her role on the social fringes of her bohemian high school. The only thing that deeply bothers her is the fact that her crush, who also happens to be her ex-best friend's brother, thinks the word "sick" every time he looks at her. To complicate things further, Kristi's father left two years ago and she's just starting to get used to life without him when he shows up, back from a stint working as a doctor in Africa. Kristi is a self-proclaimed "bitch" who has no qualms about putting people in their place if she thinks they deserve it, but readers can't help but admire her honesty and raw emotion. The many plotlines wear thin in places as the author juggles eating disorders, body image, self-improvement, romance, strained family relations, coming out and changing friendships. Readers will probably ignore this in favor of the snappy dialogue and ultimately happy ending. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
"If you ever thought reading people’s minds would make it easier to understand other people, Amy Kathleen Ryan is here to tell you that you’re dead wrong. Funny, fresh, and heartfelt, Vibes zigs when you expect it to zag, and will have you laughing out loud."—Barry Lyga, author of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and Boy Toy
" . . . the surprising details make this a worthwhile addition to a teen romance collection . . . Kristi's eccentric habit of crafting her wardrobe from found objects, the content of her psychic visions, and the mismanagement of the relationships in her life add personality, and the result is a sweet, undemanding, yet consistently entertaining read with a good deal of insight into the way slightly off-center teenage girls construct their manic inner worlds."The Bulletin
"Ryan's novel humorously explores the mind of a teenager grappling with issues of self-esteem, creativity, and self-worth. Teens will identify with Kristi and care about what she's going through."KLIATT
Read an Excerpt
It isn’t easy being able to read minds. People think up some pretty nasty sewage. Like the other day—I’m walking home from school when I come across an old guy walking his smelly Doberman. He’s definitely a candidate for this year’s Stodgiest American Award. Black suit coat, gray pants, white stuff in the corners of his mouth. He takes one look at my thick legs in their fishnets and my skirt that I made out of Mylar birthday balloons and my tank top that barely contains my ginormous boobs and finally the eyeliner I cake over my eyes because it makes me look dangerous, and he thinks: Ugly bitch.
Well, it’s true. I’m a bitch. And I’m ugly.
I could shed a lot of light on human nature if people knew that I read minds. Scientists would study me. I’d be in some lab strapped to a table and they’d put a huge machine around my head to measure my brain waves, and they’d nod to one another and say, “Fascinating. Fascinating.” And they’d all have really big pores and very white skin, because scientists never go outside. That’s why I don’t talk to anyone except for my Aunt Ann about my powers. The last thing I need is researchers sticking needles into my brain. If you’re wishing you were psychic, too, believe me, you do NOT want to know what people are thinking. People are mean, nasty, selfish slobs, and 99 percent of the time their brain vibes hurt your feelings and you have to go around trying not to remember that Gusty Peterson, the cutest guy in school, looked at you yesterday and thought, Sick.
I don’t like Gusty Peterson anyway. He always wears baseball caps backwards and extra-big jeans, and he tries to walk with a loose, tough- guy swagger that makes him look dumb. He’s a jerk-off. Too bad he also happens to be so gorgeous that when you look at his perfect tanned face and blond curls your eyes water. That’s one more thing I can tell you about human nature: beautiful people are the last ones you want to befriend. Beautiful people float through life thinking that it’s perfectly natural for others to gaze at them adoringly, and open doors for them, and defer to their opinion about whether or not the streamers for the prom should droop in the middle. Doesn’t anyone understand that beautiful people are stupid? That’s why nature made them beautiful, so they’d have some chance of surviving in the wild. And how do they survive? They use people and then they drop people, and they float away on the currents of their own gorgeousness to the next poor girl who thinks that being friends with a beautiful person will somehow make her beautiful, too. I’ve got news for you: hanging around beautiful people just makes you uglier by comparison.
I learned all this from my ex–best friend, Hildie Peterson—Gusty’s sister. She is one of the most gorgeous people in the whole world. She’s skinny and petite. Her eyes are slanty like a cat’s and her hair is light blond and glossy, so when you first see it you think that color can’t be natural, but then when you get closer you realize that it’s totally natural and you feel even worse about your mousy brown. She has never had a pimple in her entire life, and she’s been doing gymnastics since she was four years old, so she glides like a swan. She’s practically a freak, she’s so beautiful. I used to like her, when she didn’t understand how pretty she was. That was until we hit high school, and suddenly the entire lacrosse team was asking her out. They loved her so much, they practically carried her on their shoulders through the hallways of the school. Did Hildie ever look back at me—her big-breasted, psychic, slightly freaky friend—as she drifted into the stratosphere of popularity? Would you?