Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sekret by Lindsay Smith

Yulia lives in Communist Russia in the early 1960s.  Yulia has an unusual ability, she can read the minds of people she touches, and when she touches objects can read the memories of the people who have touched them.  Yulia is captured by the KGB and forced to work as a spy, along with a handful of other psychic teenagers.  Their job is to find a traitor in the Russian space program who is passing secrets to the Americans.  Yulia quickly realizes that she is not being told everything about her powers, and that her mind is not truly her own.

I was enjoying this when it first started off.  But then things started making less and less sense and I had more and more questions. 

I liked the idea behind the story, and I liked the setting.  Russia during the Cold War in the midst of the Space Race.  Yulia has learned first hand that while everyone is supposed to be equal in Communist Russia, some people are more equal than others.  The KGB can show up at any time and take you or your family away, which is exactly what happens to Yulia.  She agrees to work for the KGB because they have her mother and brother.

Yulia finds that the other kids in the program have different kinds of psychic abilities.  Some can see the future, others can view remotely, one can even manipulate people's thoughts.  The head of the program, Rostov, is also a "scrubber," someone with the ability to manipulate people's minds, and Yulia beings to realize she can't trust her own thoughts.  What is her own and what's been erased or put there by someone else?  It's difficult to know who to trust.  So a good premise, but there were a lot of holes.

There will be lots of spoilers, so just be prepared.

The biggest problem I had is also the biggest spoiler, so this is your second warning.  Yulia realizes that her father is the "American" mind scrubber everyone has been trying to track down.  The scrubber that had everyone running scared.  The scrubber who was so powerful no one could even look at him straight on.  So powerful he could scrub and manipulate even Rostov.  And yet...for some reason...Yulia's father didn't just walk into where the children were all being kept, wipe everyone's minds and walk out with Yulia.  Or take all the kids.  Or do whatever the hell he wanted.  No.  Instead he mysteriously communicated with Yulia through songs and scraps of planted memories and other confusing things.  He forced her to travel through underground passageways, nearly killing herself, to get out.  Why?  Just, why?  Why did he make her go through all that?  Sure, without it we wouldn't have much of a book, but there really seems to be no limit on the psychic powers Yulia's father has, so it seems heartlessly cruel he made his own child suffer through all this.

Not only that, but why, when Yulia's father developed his powers and realized what he could do, why did he go back for his family?  He was living in America while his family was eating rats.  Also seems awfully cruel.  Maybe reasons for all this will appear later in the series.  Right now there seems to be very little motivation for anything anyone is doing.

I didn't much like Yulia as a character.  I mean, she wasn't much of a character at all.  She was a bit of a Bella.  We know very little about her, except that for whatever reason all the boys fall in love with her and want to protect her.  Sometimes she's highly emotional, sometimes she seems kind of resourceful. But most of the time she just wasn't very interesting and I was unable to care very much about her plight.

The book was found of asserting things as "very Russian."  Maybe they were true. I have no idea.  It seemed a little odd, like the author was trying to remind us of our setting, in case we forgot.  Or maybe she's spent considerable time in Russia and Russians do that all the time.  Someone will have to let me know.  It read kind of odd though.

Not a must buy.

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