Hush Money is the promising debut of Susan Bischoff‘s Talent Chronicles series, a YA urban fantasy series that — rather refreshingly — avoids any mention of vampires or sparkling (because teens are interested in more than just blood-sucking).
High school girl Joss has done everything in her power to go unnoticed. She eats alone, carefully controls her grades, and doesn’t even think about talking to her crush. Because Joss has a terrible secret: she’s has a Talent… and kids with psychic abilities tend to mysteriously disappear. Then new girl Kat joins the school, and puts herself into harm’s way whilst rescuing Joss from the school bully. In a world in which psychic abilities are punishable by imprisonment, Joss must choose between keeping her secret and doing what’s right to save a friend.
Susan Bischoff has played her cards right: she has managed to write a captivating, engaging tale perfect for teens as well as all of us who… errr… aren’t quite teens any more. In a YA market over-saturated with the same old stories,Hush Money is a breath of fresh air and more besides: it is a fast-paced, engaging introduction to the Talent Chronicles series which will leave you hungry for the sequel.
What truly sets Hush Money apart from its contemporaries are the characters. You’ve got the high school loneliness and angst of early Smallville, the large crew of cool X-men like-powers, but most importantly you have teenagers who are three-dimensional believable people. Joss and her crush Dylan are the protagonists, with the story alternating between their points of view, but the strong character depth extends beyond the main players, creating a fully-fleshed setting which you’ll enjoy sinking into. Furthermore, there is none of this “we were destined to be together” malarkey — in true awkward teen style, the romance is light-hearted, bumbling, and achingly sweet.
The plot had a good mixture of high school drama and larger overpowering (governmental) threat, and while the issue is partially resolved, Susan Bischoff has planted many small seeds which will lead to a gripping, addictive series. After all, while Hush Money is dedicated to introducing the characters, world and dangers, the novel hints that there will be far more at stake in times to come.
My only nitpick? While I enjoyed the alternating points of view — particularly because they were so distinct, and true to each character — the initial few pages felt a little forced. Joss’ use of ‘like’ felt a little contrived, a little “trying too hard to be a teenager”… but either the voice improved, or the story sucked me in soon after, because it didn’t bother me throughout the rest of the novel.
Overall, Hush Money is just the tip of what might become a very huge iceberg. Be careful if you skim past this novel, because even with the smallest scratch you might find yourself sinking right in.
About The Reviewer
A.M. Harte is a London-based speculative fiction enthusiast and chocolate addict whose work includes the dark fantasy novel “Above Ground” and the zombie love collection “Hungry For You”. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and enjoys procrastinating at http://amharte.com