Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genre: YA, Mystery, Science Fiction
A high-action YA psychological thriller with a twisty plot and a questionably reliable narrator in which nothing is quite as it seems.Winter Kim can't live without her older sister, Rose, who protected her through the harrowing circumstances that began in their youth in Korea, and helped keep her sane as they adjusted to their new lives in the USA. Now Winter and Rose work as recorders—digital stunt women—for Rose's ex-boyfriend, Gideon. Gideon deals in experiences—sight, sound, touch, etc.—by capturing his recorders' sensory neural impulses and selling them as downloads to armchair adrenaline junkies. The more dangerous or sexy the recordings, the higher the price, and Winter, Rose and their colleagues are fearless in pursuit of great footage.
When a neural recording of what appears to be Rose's murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter won't rest until she finds her sister, dead or alive. But when the digital evidence conflicts with the real-world clues, she isn't sure what to believe. If Winter wants to find out what happened to Rose, she'll have to untangle what's real from what only seems real, risking her own life and mind in the process.
Vicarious is the first installment in author Paula Stokes new series by the same name. Per the author, this is actually a duology, which means the final book, Ferocious, will be released sometime in 2017. Vicarious is told from the perspective of 18-year old Winter Kim (aka Son Ha Neul). Winter was dumped at a Korean orphanage by her mother, and later brought to America, along with her sister Rose, by a Sex Slave Trader named Kyung. Three years ago, Winter and Rose were rescued by Gideon Seun and brought to St. Louis. Gideon acts like a landlord, employer, and older brother, while promising to keep them safe.
To say that Winter has some extreme emotional baggage and issues leftover from her time with Kyung, is not even mildly close to representing the sickness that Stokes writes about. One could say that since this is a sort of mix genre Psychological Thriller and Science Fiction novel, that Winter's perspective might be a bit skewed from everything that has happened to her. But, Winter is a really hard worker. She trains hard. She works with her sister's former boyfriend doing high risk adventures all over the country. She wears Gideon's ViSE (Vicarious Sensory Experiences) which allows users to feel the rush, the adrenaline, fear, and excitement of sky diving, or swimming with sharks, or running away from cops and jumping off a bridge.
She has an interesting relationship with Jesse Ramirez, an Army Veteran who was badly scared by an IED, and is also her partner in crime. It's a romance that will definitely be talked about, especially after Rose doesn't come home one night, and the worst possible situation forces Winter and Jesse into searching various bars in order to find her. Winter has a goal that puts her directly in the line of fire once again. Things suddenly become less clearer. Events just don't add up, and Winter finds herself struggling against a rising tide that will eventually bring her to the attention of the one person she has no use for; Kyung.
I loved that this is a dark novel. I loved that Stokes doesn't walk away from diving into the issues of PTSD, rape, sex slavery, and unreliable narratives due to the fact that the mind does it's best to protect itself from being harmed again. Winter's ability not to allow anyone to touch her, is expected, and something I can relate to after my own experiences at being raped in the most heinous manner. Unlike Winter, however, I was able to report my issue to the authorities. Because of Winter's status, she can't run to the police for fear of being deported back to Korea, or even worse, ending up under the control of Kyung once again.
I can honestly say that I was not expecting the ending, and therefore, I had emotions over what happens for several days. To say that I need the next installment, well, let's just say I need to see what happens next. I haven't read any previous Stokes works, but I will definitely search my Kindle for my copy of Liars, Inc. which has been sitting there for over a year now.