School for Psychics by KC Archer, review by Shelly Walston
KC Archer's first episode in a new trilogy is enthralling; her protagonist Teddy is well-rounded though not always well-intentioned. In School for Psychics, Teddy finds herself stumbling through her life with a gambling addiction (one so strong it's gotten her black-listed from all casinos on the Vegas Strip), bouts with anxiety and epilepsy, and a guilty conscience. It's no wonder she's reached the end of her rope: shrouded in a fat suit, pretending she's someone she isn't, hoping for a last-chance break at the tables to pay off an overwhelming debt. If she can't pull it off, her parents will pay the penalty - with painful interest.
Teddy recognizes that she's not like everyone else: she's an orphan with a penchant for reading people. But she can't quite explain how. After a “recruitment” process that does anything but follow protocol, Teddy finds herself part of an elite crew of psychics - but not just the "ordinary" kinds of psychics. No, Teddy befriends the self-labeled Misfits, a group that includes someone who mediates between humans and animals, another who manipulates fire, and yet one more who feels what those around her feel. Teddy, though not at first willing to admit her psychic-ness, later embraces it and embarks on self-discovery that leads to the realization that she is much more than anyone - even she - could have thought.
School for Psychics has all the trappings of “an exceptional person sent to a school for exceptional people” that readers have come to love since the beginning of the Harry Potter series: it has lectures that stretch believability, tactical courses that challenge the characters’ physical strength, and obstacles that seem far beyond the reaches of human possibility. But where this novel diverges from the standard trope is its scrutiny of trust. Teddy must learn who she can trust; can she trust herself and her abilities? what about the rest of the Misfits? her teachers? It’s also darker, having graduated from the young adult feel of Harry Potter to the decidedly troubled times in which many middle-twenty-somethings find themselves.
For those who enjoyed Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and Kat Howard’s Unkindness of Magicians.