We read MM Vaughan's Friendroid, and loved it, so before our library closed in March for COVID-19, we pulled this and a few of her other books from the shelves. They're older, and reflect a not quite as sophisticated writing style, but they were a good summer read. There is a third book in this series, but it's still in German (not yet -- or may never be -- translated).
The Ability starts with a bit of backstory, a scene from 30 years in the past. It's a writing technique you don't see often in children's literature, but then this duology is a bit older.
A van with several students and two instructors (note their names), and a briefcase full of money, plan to wipe the minds of their blackmailers. Except everything goes wrong, and one of the kids -- Anna (you're deliberately not given her last name) -- is kidnapped instead. Her classmates think she's dead, pushed over a cliff, and leave without trying to rescue her.
Thirty years later, the British minister of schools is reduced to a quivering coma of fear by a boy sitting in the front row of a school visit. The boy utters a single word, "INFERNO!"
The attack rings bells and causes the Myers Holt Academy to be brought out of mothballs, as the other surviving teacher -- now the general director of MI5 -- re-enacts a WWII anti-espionage program, utilizing children's telepathic abilities that manifest at age 12.
Fast forward to present-day Christopher Lane. He's a punching bag for bullies at school, ever since his father died and his mother "checked out" in grief -- hasn't left the house in years.
His school participates in a special test and when he overhears the examiner, Ms. Sonata, say she wishes for a cup of coffee and he directs her to the staff lounge, he catches her attention. Because she hasn't said anything, not a word. And she isn't testing for regurgitation of geography facts. Wink, wink.
Despite his teacher and the principal conspiring to keep him from being tested, Christopher earns a spot in the prestigious Myers Holt Academy, a boarding school that shows him the true limits of his Ability -- and what it's like to be taken care of, and have friends, for the first time in years.
In Darkwhisper Manor, a palatial mansion, twins Ernest and Mortimer are thick in training how to use their Abilities with their horrible, adoptive mother -- Dulcia Genever. Mortimer was the boy in the front row who reduced the education minister to a quivering ball of jelly, and he's mastered using Inferno. No so much his brother, Ernest. Ernest justifies all the cruel deeds by his brother and mother, who he thinks genuinely love him. But Dulcia Genever has a plan, and she's not really telling her "boys" what all it entails -- just that they, with their Abilities, are her means to that end.
Will Christopher be able to stop the Genevers? And even if he does, what'll be the consequences? Because Christopher's about to learn, despite all his skills with telepathy and telekinesis, he doesn't have precognition and nothing he does prepares him for what happens.
Spoiler alert: This review will take up where book 1 left off, so if you haven't read book one, don't keep reading this!
After Christopher kills Mortimer, and Dulcia Genever is arrested, Ernest swears he'll kill Christopher and revenge his twin's death. To do it, he's got to spring his mother from jail and lay the crumbs that will lead Christopher to a destruction of Ernest's planning.
Christopher returns to Myers Holt thinking he's safe. It's impenetrable by telepathy, but he underestimates how killing someone has changed him -- and he struggles to deal with the guilt for playing his part in Mortimer's death.
That guilt lures him out, and he mistakenly thinks he's all alone and has to confront Ernest on his own. His friends, however, are true and won't let him down.
We actually enjoyed this book more than the first, but it's necessary to read the first to really get into this one.