Hear – Robin Epstein

Synopsis

Expelled from high school months shy of graduation—her acceptance to Columbia revoked due to vigilante justice gone awry—Kassandra Black is sent to work in her great-uncle Brian’s lab at Henley University. She’s helping with his HEAR (Henley Engineering Anomalies Research) program, and hopefully getting him to put in a good word for her to attend Henley instead. She’s got to go somewhere, after all.

But as she gets to know the other HEAR students, it becomes clear that she overlooked the “Anomalies” part of their acronym—these kids are here to help Brian run experiments that gauge ESP capacity. They’ve each been selected and recruited, including, to her astonishment, Kass herself. But ESP? She doesn’t buy any of it. And even if it were real, she definitely isn’t psychic.

Yet with each new test, she finds herself more frightened. Kass really can communicate telepathically; she can even glimpse the future. When one of her fellow HEAR students is murdered, Kass must try to forget everything she knows about herself and her family and learn to trust those who share her remarkable gift.

Review

When I read the acknowledgements to this book, the one thing that stood out to me was Robin Epstein’s urging to “Go darker.” If that was the goal, I believe she truly hit the nail on the head.

This book is all sorts of creepy and dark. The visions serve as prophecies that loom in the distance. You worry and wonder when the next domino will fall. The foreshadowing (both through the visions, and through individuals’ handiwork) is stellar. There are a lot of fake-outs along the way. You need to constantly be on your feet and remember every detail. Each scene is important, and yet I feel like we are only cracking the surface.

The prologue set the tone for the story. As we began to get to know the characters, it became quite evident who would be the victim. And while I could see who would detach themselves after the tarot readings, I had no idea WHY. I was also completely taken aback by someone’s revelation of their inclusion to Camp Dodona. Does that mean… that person’s ESP is merely the same as Uncle Brian’s? A product of something else?

This book explores some really interesting topics. “There’s a fine line between psychopathy and telepathy in the brain,” really struck a chord with me. Each part was explained in such a plausible way that it felt creepy. The author’s note, describing real engineering anomalies research labs, is fascinating. What are the odds of these revelations happening? How far-fetched is ESP, really? I was also completely freaked out early on, thinking that a main plot would discuss a shooting at UCLA… even though this book came out months before the actual UCLA shooting happened. Luckily, UCLA was something different in this case. Otherwise, I probably would’ve lost it (for real).

The ending was tantalizingly open. It wasn’t really a cliffhanger — it was a full-blown set-up for a sequel. I fear for Kassandra in immeasurable ways. The HEARs are trapped. Not only that, but they are trapped in a cage with a known predator. It’s jarring. I need to know what happens next, but I’ll revisit the story with a hefty amount of caution. I hope Kass does the same.

Related Reading

  • Lexicon – Max Barry
  • The Naturals – Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • How to Lead a Life of Crime – Kirsten Miller
  • Soulmates – Holly Bourne

Rating: 5/5

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