I am a lover of boarding school stories and stories with mystery and intrigue so was excited to discover The Ability by M.M. Vaughan. It has all the elements of a great spy story.
one has any confidence in twelve-year-old Christopher Lane. His
teachers discount him as a liar and a thief, and his mom doesn’t have
the energy to deal with him. But a mysterious visit from the Ministry of
Education indicates that Chris might have some potential after all: He
is invited to attend the prestigious Myers Holt Academy.
Christopher begins at his new school, he is astounded at what he can do.
It seems that age twelve is a special time for the human brain, which
is capable of remarkable feats—as also evidenced by Chris’s peers Ernest
and Mortimer Genver, who, at the direction of their vengeful and
manipulative mother, are testing the boundaries of the human mind.
all this experimentation has consequences, and Chris soon finds himself
forced to face them—or his new life will be over before it can begin.
I like what Vaughan did with the idea of "the special kid needed for important work and gets trained for it" concept. It's been done so many times. What I like about it here is that all kids have the potential for the special abilities Chris and his friends are being trained for, yet some can access it better than others. I also enjoyed how the Ability has nothing to do with magic, it's all about brain power. The fact that they only have the Ability from age 12-13 and then lose it is an interesting twist.
Chris is a great main character. He is slightly more extra special than the other kids, but he also has weaknesses. I enjoyed his relationship with his fellow students and how their personalities came out in different ways. It was nice that they all had good and bad elements to their characters and she didn't turn anyone of them into the "bad" kid to create tension. There was plenty of tension in the story without setting the six chosen students against each other. (Any more than six middle school age kids with very different personalities naturally would.)
Kids who like adventure, mystery, and stories of spies will enjoy this one. I appreciated how there are real consequences for the things they do in this book. The Ability is dangerous, wielding it difficult, and when things go wrong there are real consequences. Too often in MG books of this sort there are no real consequences to be faced because the bad guys are some kind of fantastical evil and healing can be obtained by magical means. Neither of these things is true here. It adds some realism to the story, while it also makes it slightly more mature than some books of it's ilk. I really like how this year has seen a growing number of these sort of books, perfect for the 10-13 age group.