Scholastic, 2013 232 pages
Hypnotists series #1
Strange things are happening to Jax. Suddenly he is turning into a basketball star, teachers let him do whatever he wants, the prettiest girl in school notices him, and even professional adults start acting strangely around him. Could this have anything to do with his unusual color-changing eyes? Finally, Jax is recruited by the Sentia Institute supposedly for his keen intellect, but eventually it is revealed that Jax is a natural hypnotist, a trait handed down by generations from both sides of his family tree. The institute is run by the famous Dr. Mako, who is extremely respected by all of New York City, where both Jax and the institute call home. Jax reports to the institute every day after school and learns to hone his skills, all while trying to keep his school-life in tact. His best friend, Tommy, is color blind and immune to Jax's abilities, which makes him an honest friend. Jax meets a strange old man named Braintree, who is the leader of the Sandman's Guild, a group of independent hypnos who are trying to resist using their abilities. Braintree warns Jax that Mako is evil and out for world dominance, but Jax doesn't believe him. After Mako forces Jax to preform a trance that can remotely hypnotize people through their computers in order to bring a candidate to office whom he controls, Jax knows that Braintree was right. How can he keep his parents, who have no hypnotic abilities, safe, all while suffering the consequences of all of the remote hypnotic blow-back and keep America safe from the clutches of Dr. Mako? Jax will need help and lots of it to defeat this powerful megalomaniac, all while keeping those he loves, as well as himself, out of harm's way.
With over eighty books for young people under his belt, Gordon Korman knows how to write for children. His books are always catchy, exciting, and have a touch of humor. The hypnotists series is a crowd pleaser and will appeal to reluctant readers, especially boys. Is the plot plausible? Not really. Are the characters developed? Not so much. But what we do have is a rollicking story with a great concept and a classic good-vs-evil conflict. Every-kid Jax has a natural power that many young people would love to have and it gives him power over both fellow kids and adults. He has to decide what to do with this power, learn to control it, and apply it to fighting evil. Jax bravely takes on the bad guys and gets help when he needs it. Although his parents do not possess the same abilities, they are present, supportive, and intricate to the story. Korman raises some subtle questions about the power of the media, political corruption, and basic morality, yet never gets preachy. Readers will be led to think about what they would do in similar circumstances, all while fantasizing about what it would be like to have the ability of hypnotism. The chapters are relatively short, the book is nicely designed, and font changes indicate when folks are getting hypnotize, resulting in an attractive package to sell to an unsure customer. The next two titles are already in print, so readers have a place to go once they are finished with this series entry.