Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: Sekret by Lindsay Smith

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Sekret (Sekret #1)
By: Lindsay Smith
Published: April 1, 2014
Roaring Book Press / Macmillan Children's
Hardcover, 341 pages

An empty mind is a safe mind. Yulia knows she must hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia. But if she sometimes manipulates the black market traders by reading their thoughts when she touches their skin, so what? Anything to help her survive.

Russia's powerful spy agency, the KGB, is recruiting young people with mind-reading capabilities for their psychic espionage program. Their mission: protect the Soviet space program from American CIA spies. Why shouldn't the KGB use any means necessary to make the young psychic cooperate? Anything to beat the American capitalist scum to the moon. Yulia is a survivor. She won't be controlled by the KGB, who want to harness her abilities for the State with no regard for her own hopes and dreams. She won't let handsome Sergei plan her life as a member of elite Soviet society, or allow brooding Valentin to consume her with his dangerous mind and even more dangerous ideas. And she certainly won't become the next victim of the powerful American spy who can scrub a brain raw—and seems to be targeting Yulia. --GoodReads

 3.5 Stars


Plot: Yulia Andreevna Chernina is not your average Russian girl; she can read the minds of those around her, and even pick up past memories with just a touch. Having lived luxuriously for most of her childhood, Yulia has now been in hiding with her mother and brother for several years. Set in 1963 Communist Russia, Yulia is recruited by the KGB and forced to participate in their espionage psychic program. If she doesn't cooperate, they threaten to harm her mother and young autistic brother. There, she meets several other teens who share similar psychic abilities but all specialize in something different. Together, they must work to fulfill their mission to protect the Soviet space program from the Americans. Yulia chooses not to succumb to the corrupt government's ways -- she works to find a way to escape her psychic prison and save her family.

When reading this book, I admit that I didn't really keep track of events as much as I should have. There's so many tiny events that go on, it just gets a little overwhelming. It's like - "Who's doing what now?", "Who is that?", "What does this have to do with the plot!?" and "I'm so confused..." [This happened to me several times. I had to flip back and reread some stuff] Basically, all that really matters is the relationships between characters...

It's been maybe a week since I finished reading it, and to be honest, I can't really remember much of what happened. I just know that there were a helluva lotta characters and events.... all I remember was that she had to work as a psychic spy to order set her family free and along the way she meets these 2 guys, Sergei and Valentin, both vying for her attention...


Yulia: Yulia quickly hardens in the few years she's lived as a street rat. She learns to not trust anyone and to use everything she's got to her advantage -- even her mysterious psychic powers.  She's got her head on straight as well as her top priorities - first her safety, and then her family's. Yulia is no fluffy princess; she is quite the opposite (even if she gets swept up in a complicated love triangle...but let's face it: what YA heroine hasn't?). Even when presented the luxurious life she had once lived, Yulia yearns for something more -- freedom from the oppressed life she's been leading. 

I really admired Yulia's strength, intelligence, and persistence to seek freedom. Despite all the horrible things she experiences, she always clings to the hope of a better life. 

Sergei: Bad boy hockey player Sergei accepts his life as a KGB spy. He'll do anything to stay on the ice, even if that means turning against his friends. After all, who needs friends when you've got a rich life? It's much better to know work towards a goal than to live day by day. He doesn't understand why Yulia doesn't love her newly enriched life at the psychic school. 

Valentin: At first a seemingly distant musician with very dangerous powers, Yulia has a hard time opening up to Valentin. With time, she comes to understand his true self, and not just by his abilities as a psychic.

Overall: The whole idea of a psychic program within the government itself is just really cool. Yulia is a strong female lead -- that's also cool! A complicated love triangle is ehhh, but understandable -- it's one of the requirements of a YA novel, I suppose. However, the delivery and just number of events and people and places these spy kids needed to accomplish/meet/be at were just very overwhelming and rather... forgettable? I'm not saying this book wasn't an enjoyable read - it certainly was - but was it really worth remembering for the long run? Probably not.

BTW - a pretty generic background knowledge of the relationship between Russia and the USA after WW2 would be really helpful.

Happy Reading, folks!

Let's end with an awesome song that has no relation to the review I have just written. He talks a bit in the beginning, so I suggest scrubbing the video and skipping to about 40 seconds in.

Skip to 0:40

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