Theodora “Teddy” Cannon is hiding her short black hair and slight build under a long blonde wig, weighted underwear that adds thirty pounds, and cheap flashy clothing. It’s all in an effort to fool the security personnel and facial recognition software at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. There she plans to parlay her $5,000 bankroll (from selling her car) into enough money to pay back the $270,000 she owes to Sergei Zharkov, a vicious Vegas bookie, and her adoptive parents, who know Teddy has been living an aimless and trouble-strewn life but are unaware that she’s stolen $90,000 from their retirement account to make a partial payment to Zharkov. Teddy knows she has the talent to “read” other card players almost faultlessly ― it’s led to her being banned from all the casinos on the Strip ― and is confident that she can win big at Texas Hold ’Em if she isn’t spotted and kicked out. Her plan is working like a dream … until her talent suddenly abandons her in the middle of a crucial hand and she loses everything.
About that same time both Zharkov and the casino recognize Teddy ― apparently bad luck comes in threes ― and give chase. Teddy is mysteriously saved by a stranger, an NFL linebacker-sized man who springs several surprises on her: He knows who she is and how much money she owes, and to whom. Her ability to read other gamblers is actually a psychic ability. And he will pay back all her debts if she will come to the Whitfield Institute for Law Enforcement Training and Development, which is secretly a school for training psychically-gifted young adults.
Teddy is a rebel and a rule-breaker, but she’s smart enough to recognize a deal that shouldn’t be refused. A day and a plane and boat ride later, she’s at the Whitfield Institute on an island off the California coast, meeting other new students with a wide range of psychic gifts, from telepathy to animal-speaking to firestarting. So far so fun, but Teddy is also a loner with trust issues and has a hard time fitting in, especially when it becomes clear that she’s having difficulty getting a handle on her psychic gifts.
Stir in a hostile professor with a grudge against Teddy and the “Misfits” group she hangs out with, a couple of hot guys who are interested in Teddy, a conspiracy and a few mysteries, and you’ve got a breezy, fast-paced story that reads quickly. Unfortunately K.C. Archer’s School for Psychics (2018) never really engaged me, for numerous reasons. The plot is somewhat choppy, occasionally skipping over periods of time or important events with a noticeable lack of subtlety or smoothness and glossing over elements that don’t really make sense (for example, how did Teddy manage to land herself almost $300,000 in debt when she had a near-infallible talent for gambling?). It’s also cliché-ridden, relying on over-familiar tropes like the misfits vs. the alphas and the main character who, initially at a daunting disadvantage talent-wise, develops ― surprise! ― an Extra- Special Super Cool Talent.
The characters are mostly one-dimensional and familiar types. Teddy, though more complex, isn’t particularly likable, though readers who appreciate rebellious and troubled protagonists may enjoy her more than I did. School for Psychics has a New Adult vibe (with no interest in a committed relationship, Teddy hops into bed with a couple of different guys) but the students at the Whitfield Institute act more like teenagers. It irritated me as a reader when Teddy and her friends made several poor decisions. In particular, there’s one mind-bogglingly bad decision toward the end that annoyed me so much that I couldn’t even make myself be interested in the details of how their caper went down. The far-fetched coincidences that enabled their scheme didn’t help. I skimmed through most of what was supposed to be a climactic scene, mentally rolling my eyes at the characters.
School for Psychics works reasonably well as the introduction for a new book series, if the concept interests you and if you don’t expect too much from it beyond set-up and character introduction. Reportedly the television rights to it have been purchased and the CW is now developing a drama based on this novel.