About the Book

Title: Sekret (Sekret #1)
Published: 2014
Series: Sekret
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Zip It, Big Face Features
BFF Charms: Yay
Talky Talk: Truth and Vran’ye*
Bonus Factors: Russian 101, Space Race
Relationship Status: Comrades

Cover Story: Zip It, Big Features

This cover isn’t your typical Big Face, since there’s no actual boundary of a face and two of the most prominent features of a typical face are missing. (The eyes, in case you hadn’t realized.) As much as I make fun of the ol’ BF, I think this cover is pretty great. It’s a little busy, but the sepia photo combined with the pops of red definitely work with the story’s theme and time period.

The Deal:

Yulia Andreevna Chernina, along with her mother and her brother, has been in hiding from the Soviet Union for four years, ever since her parents decided to leave their positions as Party members and well-respected scientists without the permission of the government. In addition to hiding physically, Yulia has also been hiding mentally—she can sense people’s memories through touch. She doesn’t believe the ability is anything special, but it becomes apparent that it is when her family is kidnapped and she’s forced into secret service to the KGB.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

During her time on the outskirts of society, Yulia had to become a scrapper. She learned to survive in a world that mistreated those who were seen as “lower-class” citizens. She’s wholly dedicated to keeping her family safe, regardless of what she has to sacrifice—even when the sacrifice is her freedom. Yet, when faced with these terrible situations, she doesn’t give up, and fights back as much as she can. OK, yes, her having psychic powers also makes her an appealing friend, but that’s only a small part of her personality.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

After she’s taken in for KGB training, Yulia meets someone, but isn’t sure that she can trust him. He, like her, has been mistreated and forced to do things he didn’t want to do, all in the name of the USSR. He’s a broken soul. It takes a while for the two to fully connect. When they do, it’s sweet…but there’s something missing. The relationship doesn’t quite feel whole.

Talky Talk: Truth and Vran’ye*

In Sekret, Lindsay Smith has written a novel that, although set in 1960s Russia, feels modern. In other books, that might make for a confusing or unrealistic read. But in this case, it’s a good thing. It makes Yulia approachable and her situation believable. The bits of history woven throughout also add a great deal of “meat” to the story. I don’t know much about 1960s Russian history, but I feel like Smith does, and her dedication to accuracy is apparent. The only complaint I have is that, occasionally, Smith uses Russian phrases, and although the book is written in English, there are numerous times Yulia mentions that someone is speaking in Russian. The use of the Russian phrases, therefore, doesn’t make sense. (I might be overthinking this?)

*Phonetic spelling of the Russian word for lies, I think? Please let me know if I’m wrong! I took Spanish and Italian in school (and wasn’t great at either).

Bonus Factor: Russian 101

St. Basil's Cathedral

It’s not a plot piece, but Smith gives a primer on Russian naming conventions in the front of the book that I found super interesting. To paraphrase: Russians have three names, the middle of which is derived from the father’s name, and the endings for their middle and last names differ depending on gender. For example, Yulia and her brother’s names are Yulia Andreevna Chernina and Yevgenni Andreevich Chernin; their father’s name is Andrei.

Bonus Factor: Space Race

Space shuttle flying over earth in space

One of the subplots in Sekret involves the Russian space program and the space race between the USSR and the U.S. Space is utterly fascinating to me, and the history of space exploration equally so. The history in Sekret is somewhat fictionalized, but there is mention of both Yuri Gagarin and Sputnik, who/which is most definitely not fiction.

Relationship Status: Comrades

Sekret is a great start to what’s sure to be an intriguing series. The characters grow nicely as the book progresses, and the plot builds a world that I’d like to spend more time in. I’m hoping for a little more realistic emotion to connect with in the next book, but I’ll definitely check it out when it’s released.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Roaring Brook Press. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. Sekret is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.