by Lindsay Smith
To be published on April 1, 2014
by Roaring Brook Press
Source: Thanks to Macmillan for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book for review purposes.
Connect with the author: website | Tumblr | Twitter.
Synopsis from Goodreads: An empty mind is a safe mind. Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But 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. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.
Welcome to the second installment of Spies, Alter Egos and Serial Killers here on YA Romantics.
I'm happy that we're talking about spies today. I'm fascinated by spy lore. I've been to the spy museum in Washington D.C. I also enjoy books about spies. I wrote a post on some of my favorite YA spy books back in June 2012.
I'm happy to report that I absolutely loved Sekret. Beautifully written, richly atmospheric, and heart-poundingly suspenseful, this is a book that you shouldn't miss if you love books like Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein or TV shows like The Americans.
The story takes place in Moscow in 1963. Our heroine, Yulia, is bartering for medical supplies in the market when she's captured by the KGB, who want her to work for them ... as a psychic Soviet spy. Cool, right? Does it also sound outlandish? Well, truth is stranger than fiction, because the both the CIA and the KGB did dabble in the paranormal during the Cold War era (I know this from visiting the Spy Museum, and Smith also points it out in her afterword.)
Sekret is a hybrid book, a sort of historical-paranormal-thriller. Yulia meets some other teenagers she will be training with, students who can foretell the future or read minds or even alter memories. At this point, the book reminded me a little of some recentl YA Scooby Gang books like The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes or Impostor by Susanne Winnacker. Impostor also had paranormal elements, but both were set in the present day, and one of my favorite things about Sekret was the amazing historical setting. The Cold War era is a fascinating one and Sekret really made the most of the paranoia and mistrust of that time period work as a backdrop for the story.
Yulia was an excellent protagonist. She's tough, resilient, and smart. In her father's absence, she worries about the safety of her mother and her brother Zhenya, so she goes along with the KGB and help them investigate a threat to their space program. This was all so excellent that I was turning the pages with glee. I had two slight worries as I read. First, there were two boys in the group that Yulia befriends, and things like that always give me a worrisome Love Triangle Vibe. Fortunately, things didn't really play out in triangular way. My second worry was that, although the book remained atmospheric and suspenseful throughout, the action did drag a bit toward the middle. But then there were two BIG reveals toward the end, awesome reveals that I really should have seen coming because they were set up from the start.
As I finished the book, I was under the impression that it was a standalone, as it has one of those resolution-with-possibilites endings. However, it looks like there may be at least one more book in the works, which is happy news for me, and for anyone who enjoys YA spy thrillers.