Series: Sekret #1
Published by Macmillan Children's Publishing Group on 1 April 2014
Genres: Suspense, Young Adult
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.
*I received a free ARC of Sekret from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review*
Sekret is a fast-paced YA spy novel, set in the USSR in the sixties, and we follow Yulia from running around in a black market trying to find medicine for her mother’s clinic, while also staying hidden, and the readers quickly understand that there are many secrets in Yulia’s past, even as she is picked up by the KGB she does not know everything about herself that she might need in order to stay a little bit ahead of the game, and to make sure she will stay alive.
After being picked up by the KGB, Yulia is brought to a mansion high up on a cliff, and there are other teens like her, there. They seem to have some kind of power, seeing the future or the past, able to see people remotely, and even read their thoughts. Yulia has recently realized she is able to read people’s thoughts, too, but she needs to touch their skin in order to do so. Sekret is full of intrigue, these strange powers, never knowing whom to trust, and always being afraid of the KGB.
Even at the mansion, Yulia quickly understand that she may not be able to trust the other kids who live and work there. Especially the two slippery twins who found her at the market, they seem to love what they’re doing, and will stop at nothing to achieve greatness even if it means costing other people their lives. As Sekret unfolds, Yulia learns how to shield her thoughts, but there are people who are able to scrub thoughts, steal the ones that are hidden, and even change memories at will.
A mixture between a thriller / suspense and a spy novel with young characters, Sekret caught me in it’s intricate web from the very beginning, and I think I’m still kind of trapped in the story. Chilling, because it takes place during a time when the fear of a nuclear war on a planetary level was very real, the fact that it also takes the spying a step further because of reading minds and bending memories, I was completely captivated through the whole book.
Yulia is an amazing character, because she has no idea whom she can trust, not even sure if her own memories are true, and seeing her mom telling her the complete opposite of what she’s been telling her in the past doesn’t help. Of course, there is also tension at the mansion because there are three boys and three girls present. And Yulia has a lot to figure out, especially if she wants to really try to run away, while also making sure the CIA scrubber won’t be able to grab a hold of her mind and completely unravel her.
The writing is very good, written from first person POV from Yulia’s point of view, it only lets the reader know what Yulia knows, and when she is confused by something, I become just as filled with paranoia as she does. When she doubts someone, I think she should run away from them, and when she believes someone is truly looking out for her best interest, I believe right along with her. The characters are well fleshed out, even the ones that are in the periphery of the story in Sekret seem real to me.
I’ve had to take care of myself since the day Papa left, wearing whatever guise was required to protect those I love. Sister, daughter, thief, spy, teacher, student, cook, ration rat. Valentin said he liked me best when I didn’t wear any masks, but he must be mistaken. There’s no room for the real Yulia under all of that.
Misha, Masha, Sergei and I are riding in the back of a truck. It sounds like the start of a tasteless joke. Two sociopaths, a ladykiller, and a paranoiac walk into a KGB van. No one walks out.
My head tells me to listen to Mama’s please and Sergei’s reasoning. Surround myself in the safety of the thick wool of the Soviet system, far from the scrubber’s reach. Embrace my gift, use it well, and live the life I’ve dreamed of, working within the structure, playing the games until the day I die. So why do my feet still itch to run, run, run?