Hitchhiker by Audra Middleton
Release Date: November, 3rd, 2013
Former army brat, Ainsely Benton, may have finally found her place in this world, and it's among the freaks. This small town art teacher has the ability to see, hear, and feel what other people are experiencing, and now the FBI's freak squad wants to use her human bug abilties to catch bad guys. Despite her fear of commitment, failure, and responsibility, Ainsely temporarily agrees to join this team of misfits, and ends up risking her life to investigate a conspiracy that may only be one of her schizophrenic coworkers paranoid delusions.
The blurb does a great job covering the story’s content. It’s basically an FBI procedural with oddball agents and a science fantasy twist. What makes this novel a great fun read is Middleton’s deft touch with characters, especially Ainsley herself who is a bundle of issues having a career military father and brother she feels like she’s letting her dad down being “just” a high school teacher. Having an and unreliable often absentee mother growing up didn’t help add to her mental stability although they both share the hitchhiker gene which allows for a limited time to see, feel, and hear what other people are experiencing, but not read the person’s mind. The good news is she never whines, just trucks along trying to do the best she can even though her quirky nature and verbal blurting before she thinks get her in a lot of trouble.
Ainsley is refreshing break from the plethora of headstrong I-know-best protagonists out there. She proves you can still be strong, clever, and resourceful, without being, well, an annoying ass. Another refreshing thing in Hitchiker is that rather than being attracted to the studly cock-of the walk character, she is drawn to another squad member: Dove. Schizo, Paranoid, OCD, ADD, germaphobic and super brainy. The only problem is the way Ainsley’s powers are activated thorough coming into contact with the bodily fluids of the person she’s going to hitchhike on. How can a paranoid, OCD, germaphobe like Dove ever learn to handle that?
Even Middleton’s secondary characters, mostly members of the freak squad, are deftly layered and by that I don’t mean the “bad” person turns out to be “good” or vice versa, but rather that each character has good points and bad points like real people. That she’s able to convey all that through dialogue and actions in a novel less than two hundred pages is a testament to Middleton’s talent.