Skip to main content

Trick of the Mind

Review

Trick of the Mind

Erin and Matt meet at the castle ruins where Erin goes to practice her magic tricks after school. Matt feels sorry for the younger girl, befriending her on account of her tricks. Besotted with Matt, Erin teaches him her tricks, not realizing that he uses them to impress another girl. But when the other girl turns up dead, and Matt disappears, a brokenhearted Erin misleads the police into thinking that Matt is the perpetrator of the crime.

Set in a gloomy, coastal British town, TRICK OF THE MIND is a moody atmospheric book about the secret inner lives of teenagers. The narration alternates between Erin and Matt's points-of-view. Author Judy Waite creates dramatic tension by letting readers see the tragedy unfold long before the book's characters are aware of how they are caught in their own secrets. The misunderstanding that develops between the characters is painful to read, especially as no one is willing to speak plainly about their feelings, clinging instead to cherished illusions.

Illusion versus reality is a strong theme running through the book but becomes confused by the dramatic events that unfold within the story. These events include all the hallmarks of melodrama: the murder, someone finding out about the true origins of their birth, mysterious healing powers, and a runaway falling in with a crowd of friendly street-people. The emotions are so stark and honest that these contrived plot elements distract from what is otherwise a startling portrayal of the inner lives of young people.

Perhaps one of the trickiest aspects of TRICK OF THE MIND is the insinuation that Matt may possess actual magical powers. In one scene he appears to bring a pigeon back to life after it is left for dead. On other occasions he is able to restore people who are sick or ailing. It is possible that Erin's attraction to him stems from his ability to bring calm to her scattered household, where her recently divorced mother cares for a set of baby twins.

The author wisely chooses to make the possibility of real magic subtle, leaving it to the reader to decide if Matt has special powers or if his abilities stem from a gift of acute empathy. What she does not explore, however, is the possibility of mental illness, even as she alludes to Matt hearing voices and seeing auras. It even seems possible that Matt could have schizophrenia and is on the verge of experiencing a psychotic break.

These questions of what are real or illusory do not detract from the powerful conclusion to TRICK OF THE MIND, when Erin must choose between twisting the truth and telling the truth. Waite is very sensitive to subtle shifts of power in relationships and how difficult it can be to tell the truth when lying makes one feel much more powerful.

Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood on February 1, 2005

Trick of the Mind
by Judy Waite

  • Publication Date: February 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum
  • ISBN-10: 0689870140
  • ISBN-13: 9780689870149