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Book Review: Sekret by Lindsay Smith

Tagline: An Empty Mind is a Safe Mind

Publisher’s Description: 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.

Yulia lives in a post World War II communist Russia. Everything is rationed and people trade on the black market hoping not to get caught. Yulia has an advantage in this world because if she touches you, she can read what you are thinking. When we first meet Yulia, she is in the black market. Soon she is captured and given a choice, she can be trained to use her powers for the KGB, or her family will suffer. So Yulia signs on with the hopes that she can escape and free he family, but escaping is hard when you are living in a dorm filled with psychics.

Sekret is a fascinating and challenging read. It gives readers that glimpse into a country and a historical time period that would be new to today’s teen readers, a time when countries were racing to compete in space programs to make the announcement that they were the better, more dominant country. A time when spies perfected the art of the double cross. And a time when people stood in line for barely enough food to make it through the day.  And this behind the scenes look at life in communist Russia is strong and powerful; you can’ help but notice as Yulia suddenly gets special treatment and her figure and strength begin to grow in health as she gets food where in the past she was forced to hide and split a ration between a family of three. There is some old school spy and thrilling action in here as well. The challenging part can come in the various names that are used (there is even a guide to common Russian names and nicknames in the front) and in keeping track of what is happening in the outward reality and what is being discussed in the mind between psychics.

Yulia was a strong and compelling character, dedicated to her family even as we learned that there were many secrets there. She has a brother that also has special abilities and her concern and compassion for him are touching.

In this world, you never know who to trust, which is part of the allure. Smith manages to create an old school psychological spy thriller and adds in some cool twists with the use of psychics.  This look back at Russia is captivating and tonally captures the desperation with perfection. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review saying, “Debut novelist Smith’s background in foreign affairs and Russian culture shines through in the historical context of her story and the political savvy of her characters and plot. As one character puts it: ‘Space, weapons, psychics. Arms races, all of them, going nowhere.'” (Publisher’s Weekly, February 17, 2014).

Definitely recommended. April 1, 2014 from Macmillan (www.macteenbooks.com). ISBN: 978-59643-892-7.

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