Author: Lindsay Smith (Twitter)
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publish: April 1, 2014
Genre: YA, Historical Thriller, Sci-Fi
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.
Historical fiction is the type of genre that has the ability to morph into other genres, giving readers sweeping stories that are rich, imaginative, soulful and, at times, terrifying. Sekret is a perfect example of such a novel. Weaving Russian cultural history into a powerful thriller that's complete with science fiction elements, Lindsay Smith spins us a story that's original enough to keep us guessing, but still based in reality enough to ensure that we're invested in the tale from the start.
Sekret starts fast right out of the gate, thrusting us into a world of action and adventure that makes it difficult to keep up at times. However, the world created is so vivid and alive that we can't help but become utterly involved in this story of geneticists, government testing, psychic abilities, spies and drama. The beauty of the storyline is simple though. Ms. Smith takes those historical elements that we might recall from school - characters like Gagarin and Khrushchev - and breathes new life into them. Animated and alive, these characters interact with those in the book, seamlessly merging fact and fiction and, often times, making us question what's real and what really isn't. Perhaps even more challenging and well-executed, however, was the author's ability to pain America as the enemy, simply by convincing us so well of all the circumstances in Soviet Russia.
Yulia was a fantastic character to follow. In a novel that might have otherwise been tricky to relate to, we're presented with a strong, level-headed heroine that is more than capable of taking care of herself. It's rare to see a character fully capable of taking care of herself, but in Sekret, we watch as Yulia never strays from her convictions, always puts family first and relies heavily upon her common sense and wisdom gained through life. In many ways, she read like an old soul, and it was a pleasure to really get to know her through the novel.
I will, however, say that I think the love triangle within Sekret actually hurt the novel. I understood the setup behind it, but I also thing that it was somewhat unnecessary. This is the type of story in which one love arc, if any, might be necessary, if only to add a little extra heart and compassion into a dramatic story. It felt a bit out of place and, if I'm entirely honest, it didn't feel nearly developed enough to be completely necessary. Furthermore, I do wish that, at times, action and espionage elements of the story were more fleshed out. We're given an incredibly imaginative and powerful backdrop, and I wanted a little extra oompf from the action, as well.
Overall though, I quite enjoyed Sekret, despite a few hiccups along the way. I appreciate the fact that Ms. Smith treats us as smart readers and doesn't dumb things down for us - a rarity in historical fiction. I give this book a high 3.5 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy historical fiction, science fiction and thrillers.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.