Told in dual PoV, splitting between both Annie and Sofia (Fia), Mind Games managed to give us glimpses into the motivations and intentions of both girls, while rocketing us down a twisty path of lies, deception and hope. Remaining naive to the Academy’s true purpose for much of her residence therein, Annie was floored to learn that her sister’s training was of a much more dangerous – and practical – manner. As she slowly began to understand that she was being used as leverage in order to keep Fia under control, she struggled with the guilt of knowing that it was her choice that had gotten Fia into this mess to begin with.
"I turn and walk out, knowing exactly how many steps will take me away from that monster. Once again wishing I were Fia, Fia who could have killed him with her bare hands.
Fia who is impossible broken because she can do just that."
While I enjoyed watching Annie grow to understand just how broken Fia had become, all because of her decision to attend the Academy despite Fia’s protests, I never truly got a sense of who she was as her own person; I was constantly thinking of her as Fia’s sister. Her chapters were a nice reprieve however, acting as an escape from the dangerously dark and maddening chapters that belonged to Fia.
Having been beaten and broken, trained to fight her instincts to do what was right so she could learn how to manipulate them in order to do what was commanded of her, Fia held no illusions concerning the intentions of those running the Academy.
"In this room I have picked which gun was unloaded out of ten options. And then they pulled the trigger on me. I have picked stocks that went on to skyrocket. I have picked which pencil I would shove into Ms. Robertson’s ear until she kicked me out for thinking about it."
Mind Game’s stream of consciousness narrative was used to show just how fragmented and damaged Fia was, after years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her guardians. I found myself drowning in her chapters, lost in her broken mind as she tried her best to block out the voices, the feelings that said something was wrong, and enter a space where she was neither happy nor unhappy; a space where she merely existed. In this way, Fia truly stole the show for me, as I was fascinated with seeing how far she could fall before she was too broken to get back up. I also admired her determination to protect Annie, even though it meant she would never be free of her tormentors.
"Still, I will protect Annie. She is the only person in the world who loves me. She is the only person in the world who would never use me. She is my anchor, the chain around my ankle, the thing that means it doesn’t matter what James does or who he is – I will still be his because I will always be Annie’s."
Even when presented with an out, with a life where she could be free, where she could work at forgetting the horrors she had been forced to do under the command of those who held her sister’s life in the balance, she knew it would only be a matter of time before her past caught up with her.
"I could have kisses like that for the rest of my life. Kisses that don’t know who I am. Kisses that make me feel more and less than what I am. But my finger tap tap taps on my leg and reminds me that I am not who Adam thinks I am, and it makes me want to cry. It’s not that I don’t deserve his kiss. It’s that the person I am can never really share a life, a soul, with the person he is."
My heart broke for Fia with every chapter, as she descended deeper and deeper into the kind of madness that comes with having to constantly look over your shoulder, having to constantly be one step ahead of those who would see you fall.
While there could have been a lot done to better develop Mind Games’ plot, to better flesh out the world Fia and Annie lived in and the people behind their captivity, I didn’t mind because I was so invested in Fia’s story. To me, as much as Mind Games was a psychological thriller, it was so much more a character-driven novel. I was desperate to fix Fia, for her to find a way to free both herself and Annie from Keanes’ clutches, and for her to get a chance at the kind of life she deserved.