Title: Sekret (Sekret #1)
Author: Lindsay Smith
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan)
Acquired Via: Around the World ARC Tours
Release Date: April 1, 2014
From debut author Lindsay Smith comes an espionage thriller with a dash of both history and dystopia.
Yulia’s father always taught her that an empty mind is a safe mind. She has to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia, especially because she seems to be able to read the minds of the people she touches. When she’s captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she’s thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power where she can trust no one.
She certainly can’t trust Rostov, the cruel KGB operative running the psychic program. Or handsome Sergei who encourages her to cooperate with the KGB. Or brooding Valentin who tells her to rebel against them. And not the CIA, who have a psychic so powerful he can erase a person’s mind with his own thoughts. Yulia quickly learns she must rely on her own wits and power to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.
Since I adore both historical fiction in YA and nearly any sort of supernatural realism, I was very excited to get my hands on Sekret by Lindsay Smith. It is the story of Julia Chernina, who is a young girl wih psychic powers in the Soviet Union (aka Cold War-era Russia to the younger crowd). Sekret has a little bit of the Cold War spy novel thing going on, but it mostly read like a coming-of-age story. Yulia had to come to terms with both her ability and her situation after being captured by the KGB.
I enjoyed the book a lot, but as I looked back on it, I am not entirely sure why I liked it as much as I did. Yulia was pretty much the only character I liked and some of the book didn't really make a whole lot of sense to me. I guess the romantic aspect of the novel wasn't really for me, though it was not at the forefront. I didn't care overmuch for Sergei or Valentin, and I truly believe that the quasi-love triangle would either have not existed at all or been played up a lot more in anything but a young adult book. (Why do we have to have romance if there's a female protagonist?) I don't know why, but I never liked Sergei. I get that he was sweet by trying to protect Yulia by trying to get her to cooperate, but I read it as him having a complete lack of understanding of being ripped from his family. I don't think I saw Valentin enough to get any sort of feelings about him, but I suppose being brooding and mysterious was supposed to be his appeal.
I wish there had been more focus on the abilities of the various characters because that was the best part of the entire novel. I wanted to know every aspect of what each of the kids could do, and I kept confusing Misha and Masha's powers. Maybe it was because I could not get their names straight. Anywho, all the powers were cool, and I would've liked to see more of them in action. However, I admit that I feel like I have a case of the dumb because the kids' mission left me scratching my head. I mean, I think I got what they were doing, but there was so much intrigue that I was thrown off course.
So despite my sounding negative against my original intent, I really did enjoy Sekret. I think it's a fantastic debut, and I would love to see more YA books set in other countries/cultures. Apparently, there is a sequel for Sekret that will be out in 2015, and I look forward to reading it. If you like spy thrillers, teens with superpowers, historical fiction, and/or Russia, then be ready to pick up your copy of Sekret next Spring!
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book briefly for reviewing purposes through Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. The book was likely provided to the tour by the publisher or author, which has in no way affected the outcome of my review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own.