They call their abilities Talents, and that’s what they call themselves as well. Talents are people born with supernatural powers, feared by the population at large. Possession of an “unregistered ability” has become illegal, and those who are discovered are forcibly removed to government-run research facilities. They do not return.
And so the Talents try, as best they can, to keep their abilities secret–some more successfully than others. For some, keeping that secret begins to define who they are. That’s where Hush Money begins…
Be normal, invisible. Don’t get close to anyone. Those are the rules to live by for seventeen-year-old Joss. She spent years as an outsider, hoping to hide what she is, until the new girl, Kat, decides she’s friend material. Kat doesn’t realize her mistake when she stands up for Joss against Marco, a guy who’s been giving Joss a hard time since freshman year. Joss is horrified when these heroics lead to the reveal of Kat’s Talent. Now she has an unasked-for best friend, who is the victim of an extortion plot by the school bully, who used to like Joss. And if all that weren’t complicated enough, Dylan, Joss’s long-time crush, is finally starting to talk to her. But as Marco’s best friend, can Dylan be trusted at all? Can Joss keep her secret and still save her friend? And what’s more important, staying safe or doing what’s right?
(Amazon product description)
When I bought Hush Money by Susan Bischoff, I was not expecting anything, honestly—book snob that I am—but the first page really caught me. The beginning explains what's going on without giving everything away in one quick info-overload.
Joss Marshall is one of the main characters, is one of my favorite heroines from any and all books I've read. She's tough without it being a big deal, but she also has very teenage emotions and thoughts, which to me gives Susan Bischoff very major points. Too many YA characters “think” and “speak” either too maturely, or too much like an adult trying too hard to be YA and that's not what's happening here.
The book is in first person, and half of the book is in Joss's point of view, therefore, because Joss already knows what's going on, she doesn't get into overlong explanations of that don't really need to be there about things like NIAC (National Institutes for Ability Control) and Talents. She just gives enough information for readers (assuming we are smarter than the average bird and able to click into such things) to get the gist of what's going on.
From the very beginning, you can tell Joss has a repressed sense of justice that scares her—and her father. Just the way everything unfolds in chapter one—fast, but not too fast; a nice, steady pace—made me grin; this is gonna be good.
The other half of the book is in Dylan's point of view which just made me so incredibly happy; plus, as the book's hero, he gets top marks. He's easier with people than Joss, and less abrasive—which makes me happy, because usually it's the other way around in books: the heroine must be softer/sweeter/shyer than the hero, even if she's “tough”.
Right away Dylan is seen as the “bad boy”, except that he makes it clear he doesn't want to go that route anymore—he just doesn't know how to get out of the wrong crowd and that's so human to me that I loved him from his second page. Teenagers get into the wrong crowd and when they want to get out—maybe they mature a bit, or wake up—maybe they don't know how. (Though, while Dylan's methods make for a great story, it's so much better to get adult help).
Hero, heroine, and that leaves our villain, who happens to be our hero's best friend. Can things get any juicier, Bob? Yes! Our villain is a smart, sleezy, super-strong bully! Not your average bully that just makes it harder on our heroes. And that makes for a better story.
Everything ties together with an adorable dash of romance thrown in and a good plot. The adorable romance—Dylan crushes on Joss. Joss has been crushing on Dylan. (I wouldn't say it if it wasn't so obviously obvious from the beginning). I definitely recommend this book.