Monday, August 22, 2016

Vicarious by Paula Stokes

Title: Vicarious 
Author: Paula Stokes
Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
Series: Vicarious #1

Hardcover, 336 pages
Publication: August 1 6, 2016 By Tor Books

Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States.

Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you, for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the neural recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.

I must say, I am really impressed with the crop of Young Adults novels I’ve been reading lately. Zero complaints here. Vicarious had everything I looked for in a book: a strong heroine, interesting and engaging plot and great world building. Check, check and check. While Vicarious is a Young Adult novel, it tackled a lot of serious issues/mature content, grabbed straight from the real world news; all dark and disturbing….none of the usual stuff/fluff we see in most YA books these days. I requested this book from the publisher after reading the synopsis since it piqued my interest but it passed my expectations and wildest imagination. Vicarious took me completely by surprised and to me, those are the best kind of books.

Vicarious at its core is a murder mystery/whodunit type of story. Winter’s sister Rose went missing and the next day a vise of her supposed death appears. Vise stands for Vicarious Sensory Experience. It’s a high-tech video that enables those that view it to see from the recorder’s point-of-view and feel exactly what they felt in that exact moment. Winter and her sister Rose are stunt recorders. They do crazy outrageous things that people are too scared to do or can only dream of doing such as sky-diving, out running the police, dance with the hottest celebrities, walk a fashion runway or swimming with sharks. If you can dream/think it, then they can make it happen for you…for a price.

I thought Stokes world building was straightforward, it wasn’t overly complex but it wasn’t simplistic either. Everything was just enough to be and feel believable. My favorite part of the Vises is when Winter was going over Rose’s Vise memory chips. It was interesting to see Winter experience what’s it like to be in Rose’s shoes…since they were the complete opposite. Winter is a daredevil; she vises high-risk stunts that are life threatening while Rose vises what it’s like to be in the hottest night club/events or sleeping/hooking up with different people. Talk about polar opposites.

Winter had a horrible childhood, a nightmare really…she was one of the many girls that got kidnapped/sold into human trafficking. After much physical and mental abuse, she and her sister were saved by Gideon her current guardian and employer. Stokes did an amazing job incorporating real life problems within the story and her characters, without it being all in your face. Readers are able to enjoy the story itself but they're also being educated about a serious issue that is occurring everyday all over the world. Winter is a severely damaged victim of human trafficking and readers see how it affected every integral part of her being and how she socializes with people around her. Despite all that I thought Winter was a great character. She’s strong, raw and real. She has a no-nonsense attitude and will tell things like it is. What I like most about her is she always conquers her fear, always running straight at it rather than away. She’s as real as it gets.

As Winter got closer to solving her sister’s murder things got more crazy and complicated. The revelation toward the end was mind blowing! There were endless twist and turns; just one after another that turned everything you thought you knew on its head. Vicarious had the best twists I’ve read in a long time. Read this! I can't recommend this book enough, you will not be disappointed! All in all, Vicarious was one trippy rollercoaster that had me at the edge of my seat wondering who killed Rose Kim the entire time.  I'm super excited to hear that this is a duology, because  I can’t wait to read the next book and see what's in store for Winter! 

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