By Lindsay Smith
Available now from Roaring Brook Press
SEKRET is set in the Cold War-era USSR, when Nikita Krushchev was in power. Heroine Yulia is in hiding with her mother and brother. They used to be part of the Party, but then their father turned traitor and fled. Now they survive based on her mother's medical skills and Yulia's talent for fencing medicine. But things are about to change.
Because in SEKRET's Soviet Union, there are psychics. Yulia just happens to be one of them, and her government wants her. Working for the government means better food, better clothes, care for her brother, training in her powers. It also means working for the government. Getting people killed. Other bad things. Yulia knows she has to escape, but doesn't know how to escape from people who can read her mind or predict her every move. Escaping might not mean freedom, either. It might mean working for another country's government instead. It might also mean the execution of her brother and mother. Yulia's stuck, unless she's very, very clever.
Not one of SEKRET's twists surprised me. That didn't matter much, because I still enjoyed reading it. I liked most of the other psychics, and felt for Yulia and them both when their motives conflicted. SEKRET doesn't shy away from how hard it can be to live with people whose goals only partially align with yours and who have the ability to discern just where you diverge.
The relationships between the kids aren't restricted to friendship and suspicion. There is romance. It is not a love triangle of the type where the heroine can't decide between two guys, although two boys are involved. Yulia is only interested in one of guys, which causes a great deal of friction. (And, well, there aren't an equal number of girl and guy psychics, so pickings are slim.) I liked Yulia and Valentin's relationship, which develops as they begin to trust each other, and is both sweet and sexy.
I think SEKRET will appeal to fans of spy thrillers who don't mind a bit of genetic mutation in their plot. Smith mixes the science fiction and history well so that both are integral to the story. Best of all, the Soviet Union-United States space race is involved. Smith's debut novel is quite the thriller, intriguing characters and concepts more than making up for a predictable plot.