August 29, 2013

The Hypnotists

by Gordon Korman
Scholastic
978-0-545-50322-8 (hardcover)
978-0-545-60272-3 (audiobook)
240 pp.
Ages 8-14
August 2013
Reviewed from audiobook

Just like his earlier series–Macdonald Hall, On the Run, Everest, Island, Dive, Kidnapped and most recently SwindleGordon Korman will easily snag young readers with The Hypnotists if they're looking for his characteristic droll humour, kids vs. adult conflict, suspenseful thrills and unique plotting. 

Jackson Opus, 12, has always known that his eyes change extraordinarily from violet to blue then green, but it takes a few perplexing interactions with a bus driver, a basketball rival, his ophthamologist, a psychiatrist and a hypnotist at a vaudeville show for Jax to have his hypnotic ability identified.  (Come on, that's not really a spoiler.  What did you think The Hypnotists was going to be about?)

Selected to attend the Sentia institution of Dr. Elias Mako who,
"has devoted his life to New York City education and is an inspiration to every single one of us" (pg. 34)
Jax is taught how to control his ability to mind-bend (i.e., hypnotize) and challenged to mesmerize volunteers.  As an Opus, a family line well-known for its mind-bending talent, Jax is taken under Dr. Mako's personal tutelage, attempting greater challenges than ever imagined, including attempting post-hypnotic suggestion (i.e., producing a specific action after waking from hypnosis) via video.  But after making the acquaintance of the elderly, hippie-esque Axel Braintree, the head of the Sandman's Guild, a guild of "reformed" mind-benders, Jax learns more about his heritage and the extent of his own ability, as well as about Dr. Mako's true reputation.

It can't be surprising to readers of Gordon Korman's middle grade books that The Hypnotists has a couple of boy in their tweens trying to make sense of bizarre circumstances and erroneously interpreting others' actions, embedding laughs and dynamic surprises with each new development.  Imagine making a passing comment to a bus driver that "You have to get us to Ninety-Sixth Street as soon as possible" (pg. 3) and transforming the transit man into an Indy driver who refuses to stop for passengers, lights and traffic!  Or mesmerizing the lunch lady to provide more gravy for his friend Tommy's Salisbury steak ("Make sure you give him as much as you can" pg. 68) resulting in enough gravy to create a hazard on the floor and Tommy being stalked by the lunch lady.

With the pen (word processor?) in Gordon Korman's control, the main plot of The Hypnotists–Jax attempting to thwart an evil mastermind–is embedded with the boy's introspection of his conscience and motives while others are drawn in, demonstrating their own views on hypnotism and its uses, good or evil. Always enhancing the action with a peppering of pre-teen humour
"Aw, I don't want to see inside my mother's brain.  All those private thoughts and lady stuff.  I get skeeved out just looking at her eyelash curler" (pg. 186)
Gordon Korman will have readers anticipating Book 2 in this series, undeniably set up with Jax's final thought and the last eleven words of The Hypnotists.

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Author Gordon Korman will be attending the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) on Saturday October 26, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. at Toronto's Harbourfront.  Don't miss this opportunity to see one of Canada's legendary youngCanLit authors.

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