Book Review: “Mind Over Monsters: A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation” by Jennifer Harlow

Beatrice Alexander is no ordinary schoolteacher—she can move objects with her mind, an embarrassing skill she hasn’t yet mastered or embraced. After nearly killing her brother by accident, she joins the F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad, the Federal Response to Extra-Sensory and Kindred Supernaturals. This top-secret branch of the FBI combats ghosts, ghouls, and other monsters threatening humanity.

With her teammates—among them a handsome former-detective werewolf and an annoying Don Juan vampire who’s dead-set on seducing her—Beatrice investigates her first case. Disgustingly dismembered bodies have turned up, bearing bite marks of the undead. Someone—or something—is raising a horde of hideous, bloodthirsty zombies. Armed with Bette, her trusty machete, Beatrice takes on the master of the flesh-devouring corpses, who’s guarding a horrifying secret…

Mind Over MonstersAlright, here’s the deal. Sometimes people come up with a great idea for a book. They think up a great plot, some interesting character ideas, a few quality twists and turns that will keep the reader turning the pages, and then they’ll put it all down in print.

One of two things usually happens in this scenario. Either the book is a hit and they go on to fame and glory, or the book is a flop and nobody gets it for some reason and they fall back into obscurity. Well, this time, Jennifer Harlow finds herself right between the two with Mind Over Monsters. She has a great idea for a new, fresh take on the “misunderstood monsters are actually the good guys” concept. She even has a few great twists and turns in her plot, but she fell flat on the viewpoint character. Which, in turn, kept the book from being great.

I really like the idea of a squad of individuals who have some extraordinary powers they themselves can’t really explain. Perhaps some of these squad members don’t really like who they are as a result of these powers, maybe they just want to be left alone, but they realize they can do good in the right circumstances. I even like the idea of this particular story being told from a first-person viewpoint of a newly inducted member of the squad.

What I don’t like is that viewpoint character coming across so loudly as a desperate attempt for the author to live some sort of fantasy they’ve thought up in their mind. Every single time that the main character swoons over the muscles of a squad mate  complains about her messed up hair, or does something based on having little to no common sense it ripped me right out of the story and made me want to stop reading. I kept going because Harlow did have some really good stuff mixed in with all of the distracting things the main character was doing.

There is an absolutely great moment between Beatrice and a young girl, a heart-wrenching moment if I’m honest with myself. Harlow demonstrates some exceptional skill at various places throughout this entire book, but doesn’t maintain that skill all the way through which was disappointing because I wanted to love this book very, very much. There is a lot of depth to the world Harlow has created for these characters to live inside of, but she’s keeping them on the surface of it most of the time instead of really letting them marinate.

From what I can see there is already a follow-up to Mind Over Monsters entitled To Catch a Vampire. I’m not going to pick it up right now, but I’m not going to rule it out entirely like I would a lot of other sequels to books that made me feel this way. I think the author is smart enough from what I saw in her writing that she could fix a lot of the problems I had without too much effort, but will she is what I want to know.

I’d be interested in knowing if anyone else has read Mind Over Monsters recently and has some thoughts on it. It was so close to being what I wanted it to be, so close.

Length: 280 pages

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads

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