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Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Roaring Brook Press

Sale date: April 1, 2014

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.

Visit the publisher’s website for an excerpt:  http://us.macmillan.com/sekret/LindsaySmith

I seem to be on a bit of a “psychic teens” kick — there’s this novel set in an American high school, that I reviewed recently, and also this one about a secret agent teen. And a while ago, I read the sequel to Shadow and Bone, a series with Russian characters, special powers, people who can amplify psychic powers. So forgive me if I find Sekret by Lindsay Smith to be vaguely familiar at times. The story is set in the 1960s and Smith integrates details from that period. I think this novel could supplement a history class unit on the Cold War since it tries to reveal what life in Russia may have been like during that time.

My quibbles:          Some of the relationships between Yulia and the others on her team weren’t always believable. For example, I found it hard to believe that Sergei liked her upon first sight. Yulia can sometimes be impulsive and gullible, so I found myself cringing at some of her thoughts and actions. The plot with the American “scrubber” psychic was a little too convenient. Their teacher/mission supervisor, Kruzenko, a psychic Russian with a bob reminded me too much of Cate Blanchett from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And there are lots of reveals near the end which made it feel like too much was being thrown at me.

What I liked:        Yulia has a lot of unanswered questions about her past, and this made me keep reading. Why did her father abandon the family? Why are there gaps in her memory? Her relationship with Valentin and his power is intriguing. Is he on her side, or just out for himself? Their boss, Rostov is a horrible person; I wanted to know what his back story was. There are some really descriptive passages and appreciative references to music. I don’t know music history that well, but if the song choices in the novel are correct for the setting, then music history could be another tie-in for students reading this novel.

Sekret is the first novel in this series by Lindsay Smith. I’m interested enough in Yulia and Valentin to want to read the sequel when it comes out.

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