It’s 1963, the Cold War, and the KGB have a plan for Russia to come out on top … they are recruiting young people who are able to read minds for a secret, psychic espionage program they’ve developed. Recruitment is a gentle word – it is not safe for anyone who shows signs of mind reading to be present in the Soviet Union. Premier Nikita Khrushchev insists on protecting the Soviet Space Program and will use any means possible, including harnessing the powers of the country’s youth.
Yulia is a a tough, lone young adult who refuses to allow the government to control her and her future. She’s never told anyone about her abilities, she’s even kept it a secret from her family, but somehow the government is on to her and one day she returns home to find her mother and brother missing and a KGB agent waiting for her.
For the sake of her family, Yulia is ‘recruited’ – like so many others – to use her powers for the good of the country and she’s trained alongside a number of other children and adults alike – all who possess some sort of psychic power (in some cases more terrifying than her own).
There are two young men who will vie for Yulia’s attention and affections: Sergei the youth who had hoped to become a hockey player before he was recruited, and Valentin, the brooding piano player. Yulia wants to trust these two, but distrust is the name of the game. Trusting no one, especially in a room full of spies, is the only way to stay safe.
I quite liked this book. The Cold War era is one we don’t often see as a time period for YA books (plenty of spy thrillers for adults, like the John le Carré novels) and this mix of fantasy and historical fiction, with a female YA character in the lead is, I think, unique.
We don’t spend too much time on the romance triangle, which is just as well because it’s set up quite clearly from the start how this will play out. It’s also a quite minor part of the story.
While I liked this concept and the general writing, it did drag a bit. Sometimes I felt we spent too much time rehashing an attitude (“I don’t want to be controlled and used for my skills!”) or getting a history lesson than we do getting on with the story.
I see there are other books in this series and I’m definitely interested in reading more.
Looking for a good book? Sekret, by Lindsay Smith, is a Cold War-era YA fantasy thriller. It’s a nice way to have a fantasy element without going the route of magicians or elves.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Lindsay Smith
series: Sekret #1
publisher: Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children’s
hardcover, 314 pages