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. But they’ve escaped the past and started over in a new place where no one knows who they used to be.
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 is devastated. She won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the digital 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.
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 16th 2016 by Tor
Four and a half stars: A smart, sophisticated, scifi thriller with complex characters and a story line that will leave you reeling.
Winter Kim is no stranger to danger or pain. Since she and her sister were left on the doorstep of the orphanage by their mother when they were young girls. Later, the two were trafficked to the United States where they were forced into prostitution. They only reason the girls survived was because they had one another. Luckily, Rose catches the eye of a smart young Korean man, Gideon, who helps them escape. The three begin a new life together. Gideon invents a technological wonder known as a ViSE, which allows the user to experience activities with a visor via neural impulses. Rose and Winter record all kinds of activities for Gideon to sell. Things are going well for the trio, until disaster strikes. Rose disappears and the only clue they have to go on is a ViSE recording that shows her death. Winter refuses to believe that Rose is dead. The further she digs, the stranger things become, until Winter uncovers the shocking truth. What really happened to Rose?
What I Liked:
- Ms. Stokes has quickly become a favorite go to author of mine. I love that she writes across genres, and that each and every story manages to deliver. Vicarious is her most ambitious, sophisticated and intelligent story to date. This is a thrilling, suspenseful story with a darker tone and a severely damaged main character. I loved watching this one unfold. Make sure you read this one!
- Winter Kim is one of the most interesting main characters I have encountered in awhile. She has had a harsh childhood, surviving abandonment, prostitution and abuse. She is damaged and broken, but fighting each and every day to recover. I liked peeling back her layers to find out what made her tick. Once I got to the jaw dropping truth, I was stunned and fascinated. She is a character I won't soon forget.
- The plot is thick with suspense, fueled by a strong mystery. I liked all the unsettling twists and turns, leading up to the rapid fire, jaw dropping finale that left my head spinning. If you want a good scifi thriller, this is one you don't want to miss. It is a page turner.
- I liked the whole concept of the ViSE. It was an interesting and different way to uncover information in the past.
- The romance is one that works but it is complicated. No worries, it doesn't feature a love triangle or any of the other worn out tropes. Instead, it is one that requires delicate balance as Jesse tries to draw Winter out of her broken shell. I loved how patient and kind Jesse was with Winter, and that he never gave up on her, despite her damage and her severe issues with intimacy. There is still a lot of growth yet to come, and I can't wait.
- I loved that Winter, Gideon and Rose are Korean. You don't often get characters from the Korean culture in mainstream U.S. literature, and I so appreciated that Ms. Stokes was able to bring us a bit of Korean culture.
- The ending was absolutely stunning. It was shocking and surprising, and I would have never seen it coming. I loved the way it all played out. Yes, there is a bit of a cliffhanger, but I will take it since that means more is to come.
And The Not So Much:
- I wished there was a bit more depth and detail with the world building. I had no idea as to how far into the future this was taking place, and there was practically no detail regarding the world. The only thing that indicated that it was a futuristic book was the ViSE technology.
- Even though I loved all the shocking developments and twists at the end, I felt the ending was a tad bit too rushed and that too much information was tossed at the reader in the last fifty pages or so. The last portions especially with the final confrontations were a bit too hasty for me. I wish that just a bit more time was spent on it.
- There was a sudden revelation right at the end regarding the football player, and then it is quickly forgotten. What was the deal with that?
- Gideon was such a mystery. I was left wanting to know way more about him and all of his actions.
- This is marketed as a YA novel, but I am very hesitant to recommend this to younger readers. It features many dark topics such as prostitution, mental illness, murder and violence. This is best suited for older, mature readers.
Vicarious is one of the best YA books I have read this year, though I struggle to categorize this as a YA book. This is a book that is smart, sophisticated and thrilling. I loved the story with all of its shocking twists, and I loved the suspense and the mystery. I also enjoyed the characters. This is one not to miss. I hope more readers pick it up.
I borrowed a copy of this book from the library. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.