Roaring Book Press/Macmillan
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (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.
Sekret is a story that creeps forward slowly rather than leaping from the gate with a great deal of speed and intensity, the intricacies of the mind a focal point that forces us to pay close attention and stay sharp even as our attention sometimes wants to wander. It's a tale that's clearly well-researched and well-thought out, but some of the Russian names and plot intricacies–particularly those that focus on historically significant events like the space race between Russia and the US–do occasionally trip us up as we try to figure out how they tie into Yulia's ability. The various missions she and the other young men and women like her execute can also be a touch confusing, the gifts each of them possesses at times muddying the waters given how tricky it is to tell whose psychic eyes we're seeing through as events unfold.
Yulia has the ability to touch people or objects and see events and conversations linked to them, something she's only recently come into when we meet her. We're therefore almost as out of sorts as she is from the beginning and have the pleasure of asking questions and figuring things out right along with her, ensuring we're connected to her throughout. She's clever and knows to keep her guard up even around those who appear to be friends, and while that doesn't always keep her from being hurt when someone manages to slip past her defenses, we can't help but admire her sense of self-preservation.
The romance is an extraordinarily minor element and one that's very low on the drama scale, something we're certainly grateful for but at the same time it's hard not to wish for a touch more. It's almost so minor an element as to be unnecessary to the overall plot, though having said that, there's no instant attraction or angst that makes it feel as though it was an element simply tossed into the story to appease those of us who crave love in their young adult fiction. In fact there's no mention of love at all, it's much more of a quiet friendship that eventually leads to more, and though it is undoubtedly a beautiful relationship full of music and hope, it doesn't strike that emotional chord that has us flipping the pages with added speed just to get to the next scene between them.
Overall, Sekret will be hugely appealing to those who love historical fiction, especially the politics and the power games between the United States and Russia in the 1960's. The added supernatural element provides an extra layer of tension, but at the same time it can be difficult to sort through all the contrasting psychic inputs to figure out which pieces of information are ones we need to take careful note of, slowing the pacing down overall. We're certainly left with questions, but they're not of the tear-your-hair-out variety, rather we're content with where Yulia is and hopeful that those questions will find answers in the next installment.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.