Last October I got access to a copy of Mind Bond by Julie Haydon, courtesy of NetGalley and Feather in Cap Publishing Pty Ltd., and then promptly forgot about it. Luckily I was going through my NetGalley account to see what books I might have available to me and rediscovered it. Set in a world where people have just learned that there are those who can speak telepathically to animals, this young adult novel centers around Christa, a woman in her early 20’s who has not quite figured out her place in the world. Haydon infuses her novel with a love of and reverence for nature, which can be found in many of the beautiful passages she includes describing Sakima National Park, in and around which the majority of the events take place. Haydon clearly did her research, easily transporting her readers to a rich wilderness filled with wonders and dangers alike. She touches on a variety of themes, including the importance of family, following your heart, destiny, conservation, the collision between wildlife and farmers/hunters, prejudice and spirituality.
What I enjoyed most about the book was the descriptions of Sakima National Park and the animals that live in and around it. Besides Magnus, the wolf pup that is the other main character and who mind bonds with Christa, readers can encounter everything from mice to beavers to coyotes, elk, mountain lions, moose and much more. I was also intrigued by Christa’s psychic grandmother and her version of spirituality, which pulls from Native American, Hindu and New Age beliefs. I liked that while the grandmother introduced these topics to those around her, including Christa and her best friend Ava, she is quick to point out that any beliefs you hold are your own and her version is not necessarily the right version. I also loved that though this might be considered a coming of age novel, the main character is in her 20’s. I myself didn’t find my true path to libraries until I was in my late 20’s, making this main character especially appealing to me. Plus, as an animal lover I think the idea of interspecies telepaths is exciting.
As I mentioned, this book is overflowing with many themes, many of them hard-hitting. She does a good job introducing them to readers, but she might have more success if she didn’t try to pack so many ideas into one novel. The book seems crowded with so many disparate ideas, none of which get a really in-depth treatment. I also felt that some of the character development got short thrift because she was trying to pack so much in. Perhaps, because this is a series, Haydon intends to get to some of the meat of her heavier themes and flesh out some of her characters in later installments.
I would recommend this book to animal lovers, of course, but I would also include those of my generation who have just not figured out what to do with their lives. I think this book is unique in that it isn’t about a kid or a teen and it also isn’t about an adult who has their life together. I think much of the people my age are still striving to find their place and it’s encouraging to read a book about a woman who is trying to do the same thing. Plus, her telepathic conversations with Magnus, the wolf pup, are just ridiculously adorable. Finally, it’s a quick read, taking me only about 8 hours or so over 4 days to finish it. I give it only 3 out of 5 stars because I don’t think Haydon has really found her voice. Some of the conversation is stale and much of the heavier discussions of the themes previously mentioned are forced. I’d love to see how she treats her characters in the next in the series and how she grows as an author.