Review: Skandal by Lindsay Smith

ARC: 336 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Sekret #2
Synopsis
The dramatic sequel to Sekret, this psychic Cold War espionage thriller follows Yulia to Washington, DC, where she fights to discover the truth about her family without losing control of her mind. 

 My mind is mine alone. 

 Life in Washington, D.C., is not the safe haven Yulia hoped for when she risked everything to flee communist Russia. Her father is reckless and aloof, and Valentin is distant and haunted by his past. Her mother is being targeted by the CIA and the US government is suspicious of Yulia's allegiance. And when super-psychics start turning up in the US capitol, it seems that even Rostov is still a threat. Ultimately, Yulia must keep control of her own mind to save the people she loves and avoid an international Skandal.


When I heard that the sequel to Sekret was coming out, I was excited. I really enjoyed Sekret (my review here) and I was missing Yulia, her family, her friends, her world, and even her enemies, so I couldn't wait to delve into it all again. I had high expectations for Skandal and was looking forward to reading it. However, Skandal didn't excite me as much as I hoped it would. The mystery and suspense in the characters' interactions were there, but it did not grip me until towards the end of the novel. Because of this, I can only give Skandal


I want to end on a good note, so I'll begin with why I didn't enjoy Skandal and then mention all the things I liked in the end.

One of the main reasons why I was into Sekret was that I loved how Smith weaved history into the story line. The novels are set during the Cold War, and because I only know the historical event through the eyes and mouths of Americans, I was really excited to find that Sekret referred to the war in the eyes of the Russians in the Soviet Union itself. The element made the story all the more real and exciting for me. So in Skandal, when the story was set in the U.S. capitol, I found myself missing the Russian history. Like a traveler with itchy-feet back home from an amazing trip, I wanted to be back in the foreign country I knew little to nothing about and am only beginning to understand but had to motivate myself to stay where I was and see what there was to come. I know that Sekret ended in a cliffhanger that suggested a new setting and I know that in order for the story to have continued moving in the direction it moved in the first half, the second half of the duology had to be set in the place of the other half of the Cold War, but I still wish that that same interesting history was more included in Skandal. Learning about the inner-workings of the CIA was somewhat interesting because I didn't know much about that either, but I personally found more interest in learning about the Soviet Union and the government and the life of the people there. Only the nostalgia for home felt by Yulia, her family, and Valya brought me back to where I wanted to be.

I also didn't think the mystery and suspense built up in Skandal was very engaging, not until the last hundred or so pages of the book. To me, the built up felt as if I was walking in a circuitous path with the characters, and in the beginning I was enjoying the chase, but then my enjoyment changed into boredom and disinterest. The constant inconclusive and twist-y nature of the evidences frustrated and angered the characters and confused and disappointed me. I even came to a point where I felt I was only waiting, waiting for the breakthrough of all the gathered evidence to come and finally get things rolling somewhere. Thankfully, eventually, that breakthrough came when the story was just a few chapters away from its climax, and from there to the very end, I was hooked and into the chase again. But for the majority of Skandal, I was mainly "running along" with Yulia and her team.

That suspense toward the end that finally hooked me completely into the story, though, was really great and it was what saved Skandal for me so that it is still memorable now. Just like in Sekret, I cheered Yulia and her team (but mostly Yulia because I really like her) on as they raced against their psychic enemies with their own psychic powers, and I was riveted during the entire conflict. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, so I'll just say that when the evidences all finally came to a head and then that sacrifice was made, I was breathless and completely shocked, for lack of a better word. Everything was just so crazy and, for Yulia, really challenging and upsetting, so as much as I admire Yulia for overcoming all of those trials in the end and Smith for having the boldness and creativity to write the story in the first place, I am, to this day, still so stunned by it all. When I was reading, I had to put the book down to process everything and calm myself down, taking deep breathes and trying not to let my emotions overcome me, and when I reached the end, I was happy, but still dizzy from the suspense. The twist was that good. I'll always look at Skandal with appreciation for the emotions it churned in me, however late into the novel the effect may have been.

Also, as evident, I continue to admire and praise Yulia who shined yet again in Skandal. Talented, loving, brave, stubborn, and strong (physically and emotionally), Yulia is one of those characters that are real and true no matter her heroic attributes. She does not always understand everything that happens around her nor does she always act cleverly and rationally, but her intentions are always good and her messes are always cleaned up by her. Even if she may grow distrustful or afraid of her own loved ones, as she did in Skandal with her dad and a little with her boyfriend Valya, her suspicions do not consume her so much that she forgets to love, care, and forgive them. I also truly admire her for her strength. In Skandal, Yulia was tested beyond measure as her loved ones were often threatened by her enemies in an attempt to ruin her, and while I chewed my nails and held my breath for Yulia, Yulia braved through them all to the best of her ability, which was not perfect but enough. I was so happy to be reading about her again when I picked up Skandal and am now so sad to be leaving her and her world again, but always will Yulia stand out in my mind in my list of genuine yet kick-butt heroines.

Skandal did not live up to my expectations with its uninteresting setting and disengaging suspenseful build, but it did not completely disappoint as its plot quickly revved up toward the climax, at the climax, and finally to the end. I still enjoyed the action and the characters, particularly Yulia, and those will always be what makes these books by Lindsay Smith so great in my mind. If you haven't yet, pick up and read Sekret and then, if you enjoyed it, Skandal because the storyline that Smith weaves with her passion for Russian culture and knowledge and imagination of psychics and spies is something that cannot be passed up without trying. The vivid history and exciting spy missions will dizzy your mind as they are all seen, explored, and told through the powerful, psychic mind.

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