Sekret - Lindsay Smith

An empty mind is a safe mind.

Set in Russia in the 1960s, Sekret tells the compelling and often horrifying experiences of Yulia, whose family has been taken away, and who has herself been kidnapped and made to work as a psychic spy for the KGB. Her superiors send her conflicting messages on a regular basis, and her companions in the psychic branch cannot be trusted. But even keeping quiet isn't enough since almost all of them can read her mind. Thrilling and often disconcerting, this is a novel you won't want to put down once you open to the first page.

Telekinesis and psychic abilities are a staple of many YA novels, much like vampires, zombies, and other supernatural phenomena as of late, with each author creating and attempting to follow set rules within each respective fictional or realistic world. Sekret creates rules that, like in so many books, don't always make sense, and which often cause trouble in the overall story arch because they have to be modified in a moment to make the story work. While this particular novel does do a good job of laying out the different types of psychic ability, there were moments where they seemed to melt together and I wasn't sure why there were differentiated types in the first place, if almost everyone could do similar things with their mind powers from time to time. 

That being said, this is far from a fatal flaw, and I only found myself questioning the psychic rules from time to time. The characterization and suspense kept me on my toes and overshadow these briefly destabilizing moments. Smith is able to keep her story feeling fresh and original among the many other novels featuring psychic/telekinetic/mind-controlling teen protagonists.

Smith's writing is fluid and works well within the 1960s setting. She has a way with descriptive language that I find particularly pleasing:
Sometimes my feet linger in the ballroom doorway just a little too long, like gravity pulling me toward Valentin's music as he plays. The mathematical etudes ease the knots out of my mind; I like the way his long fingers dance across the keys, and I like the crease that appears between his eyebrows when he comes to the tricky parts.
The elements of romance and affection run throughout the text without the story become bogged down as any sort of typical love story, which I admire, as it would have been so easy to let happen.

The foreword on Russian names is also quite helpful and will ensure that readers are able to follow the story even as characters use various nicknames and name forms throughout the book. There are numerous twists that keep the story from becoming predictable, and the ending is not at all what I expected!


(Note: This review is from an Advanced Reading Copy - Out April 1, 2014)


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