Flashback Fridays: Troubled minds can know no rest . . .

You’re a fifteen-year-old girl who has a troubled past.  Nobody wants you, and trouble seems to follow you–spooky troubles, the kind that don’t really make  sense.  You’ve just been brought to Dr. Chill’s institute.  He’s a strangely jolly man who has gathered a whole group of troubled kids of all ages.  Like you, these kids all have something special–something spooky about them.

Do you remember: \

Dr. Chill’s Project by Thomas Hoobler (Putnam, 1987)

I’ve always had a love of books featuring psychic powers.  Particularly those manifesting in kids.  So this story from the 80s of an institute for troubled kids where Dr. Chill is teaching the children how to gain control and make use of their gifts was an immediate favorite of mine.  Ever since traumatic events  that happened in Allie’s past, she’s been in and out of institutes.  She’s trouble, pure and simple–things seem to move on their own when she gets mad and damage is caused that there’s no other explanation for.  Allie doesn’t believe Dr. Chill’s institute will be any different at first.  Until she comes to find that every kid in Dr. Chill’s care is dealing with a psychic ability.  Some have the ability to predict the future, others have telepathic talents, still others–like Allie–have telekinetic abilities.  As she comes out of her shell and befriends the others in the institute, Allie begins to be hopeful that this might be the home she’s always hoped for.  Until she hears about kids who have disappeared . . . and one of her friends goes missing.  Now it seems that Dr. Chill’s project may have a sinister side after all.  Allie and the other kids go on the run to save their friend, but will they make it in time?

If you were a fan of The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts, this is like a more mature, darker version of that story.  Allie, our main character, is seriously messed up from her time in institutions.  Coming to grips with the events that first sparked her abilities isn’t easy.  No character in the story has a completely easy time of it,  the possession of psychic abilities have left all these kids with flaws and struggling to try and make it in ordinary society.  It’s been a while since I read this, so it may be that this is a tad more teen than middle grade. It’s still one of my favorite books of psychic ability, if only because it focuses on the relationships between the characters and how they learn to work together and help each other.  The ending is a little ambiguous, but hopeful.

Looking into the author, it turns out that Thomas Hoobler has written only one other science fiction book The Hunters (1971) which appears to be for adults.  The author has had a very prolific career writing historical fiction for kids, much of it partnered with his wife, Dorothy Hoobler.  Their most recent children’s works and ones you might still find on the shelves are the Samurai Detective series.  A series of mystery adventures set in eighteenth century Japan.

Any other fans out there of Dr. Chill?  I was always slightly disappointed there wasn’t a sequel to it.  Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on October 5, 2013, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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