Publisher: Macmillan's Children/Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: April 1st, 2014
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.Disclaimer: I got an e-copy from NetGalley. This did not affect my review or thoughts in any way.
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.
"Sekret is suspenseful and definitely filled with secrets."
At first, I was only mildly interested in this book, especially since I only know a little bit about Communist Russia (aka what my World History teacher taught). But my gosh, I'm so glad I chose to read this book!
Sekret is suspenseful and definitely filled with secrets. If you're a fan of spy novels or spy anythings, you'd probably enjoy this book. You'd probably also enjoy it if you like a bit of a mystery and suspense. The book has just the right amount of all of this without it being overwhelming. It's a fun but sometimes tough(er) read, especially since it does deal with some important parts of history. If you are a history buff, or perhaps rather a historical fiction buff (or both), you would definitely be able to get a lot out of this. It's definitely made me a little more interested in Communist Russia. Learning a little bit more about the KGB was also awesome, especially as a fan of some spy shows/movies.
This is pretty fast read, at least it was for me. It's intriguing, and you'll want to keep reading and turning every page until you get to the end. The middle and last portion is especially engaging. The plot moves along fairly well, and the plot twists just killed me! I could kind of see one of them before it hit, but there were a bunch of really big ones that I did not predict but could figure out. They hit me like BAM!, and I'm sure at least one of them will do that to you too. And that ending?! I need Book #2 now!
Moving on to the characters, I really enjoyed the variety of characters there were. In some ways, they were similar, but in so many other ways, they were each unique. I had a love-hate relationship with some of them, especially Masha and Sergei. Masha, Misha, and Larissa's boyfriend are a little less important, though Masha could be argued for. She's outspoken and very much against Yulia, but she is instrumental in a couple of scenes, and it's fun/interesting to see her interaction with Yulia and the rest of the characters. Sergei was an interesting character to say the least, and I was confused at what I thought of him until the middle-end. Something the reader learns about Sergei really helped me to figure out whether or not I did like Sergei (verdict is: yes, I do). Valentin was another character I was really conflicted about at first. He seemed so innocent and kind, but then as I learned more about him, I grew more and more uncertain about whether or not he really was that kind and truthful. I was wary of his actions for the majority of the book. I do think that he was often just a plot device at times, but for the most part, there was something I liked about Valentin.
I also LOVED Larissa. There's a lot of question as to why she was so willing to help Yulia, but I think that it's pretty clear from her ideas and personality. Larissa is probably one of my favorite characters, if not my favorite, in this book. She's kind but can be tough. Her power is amazing, but she also knows the burden of it, and she makes sure nobody else thinks its purely just a gift to have the power she does. She really helps Yulia throughout the story, even at the end. She has flaws, but that makes her so real. She is genuinely someone I would love to have as a friend.
I don't recall the names of the man and woman in charge (one is Anton something, and I don't remember the female's name because I had it on a note, but it was deleted), but I found their interactions to be interesting as well. They both seemed to have ulterior motives, and they did! Especially Anton. Like oh man was he planning something big. But you'll have to read this to find out what it was. ;)
Zhenya, Yulia's brother was also a really excellent addition on Smith's part. I liked having a character that was mentally ill. This isn't because I like that people are mentally ill but because I think it highlights a few things about how we take care of the mentally ill, even today. I do think of Zhenya as a bit of a plot device, but at the very least, it was a well done one.
Lastly, of course, is Yulia. I felt like I understood her struggles and confusion so much. She was conflicted but determined. She had such a strong mindset, and she wasn't a push over. She was interesting and complex. Her personal history was beyond interesting, and it was so cool to see where Smith decided to go with that. Yulia's an extremely well-written character.
So now, if I enjoyed the book so much, why did I end up giving it four stars? Well, for one, the beginning was something that I had to push through. By the beginning, I mean Chapter One primarily. Another aspect was that I was confused very often. First, there was the issue with names and nicknames. I feel like it should firstly be consistent. Are we using the nicknames or the real names? A mix makes it so much more confusing when someone uses the other. Also, the powers that went with the characters were hard to understand and not fully explained, I believe. Plus, I could never remember what anyone's power was for the first half of the book. I still don't recall some of them. I had to keep going back to the page where they were "listed" out for us. It wasn't incorporated or explained enough for some characters that I had no way to remember it. It really cut up my reading, and it wasn't enjoyable. It was an added hassle. So yes, having a large cast of characters is a positive aspect of the book, but it can also be a negative aspect because it can leave you, the reader, very confused. The last major issue I had with the book was the semi-love-triangle-that's-not-really-a-triangle. It was so strange to see Yulia suddenly change between people, and it didn't always feel natural to me, especially more on one of the sides (I think you'd agree with me if you read it). It felt forced, and it felt like yet another plot device. I was waiting for something to occur between Yulia and one of the characters, but this whole triangle-ish thing seemed to be the partial focus of the book, but I actually think it was too focused. It just felt awkward and mostly unnecessary.
All in all, this was a fantastic read, and it's definitely recommended!