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.
Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be published August 16th, 2016, via the author in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.
I was a beta reader for this amazing novel and it’s been a crazy journey seeing this book progress. I’m actually still a little bit in shock that I’m finally posting this review. It’s only 8 days until Vicarious hits shelves (or maybe earlier, depending on if some stores stock it earlier).
I was initially hesitant to read this book because it’s about Koreans but it’s not written by a Korean, but I can honestly say that Paula did everything that she possibly could in order to attempt to create a realistic portrayal of this story. I respect that. Winter and Rose’s cultural background and past is clear throughout the story, but by no means does it take over as a plot. If any book did diversity correctly this year, it was Vicarious.
But that doesn’t mean all the characters were likable. I really disliked Winter at times for her impulsiveness, especially toward the beginning-middle of the book when she’s bent on finding her sister. She lashes out at other characters who are just trying to help her. I understand that she’s got her own issues that she’s struggling with, which her connection to her sister has helped with, but that’s no excuse for acting the way that she does sometimes.
In terms of supporting characters, I loved getting to know everyone. I didn’t feel like I truly knew everyone, but everyone was solid and unique. In particular, I really liked Gideon and Rose. Gideon helps to hold Winter back, and he really does take care of her and almost acts as a father figure. There were actually a lot of adults in this story that had positive roles, which is another rare element to YA. I appreciated how much Rose supported Winter, and it was also great to see such a strong relationship between siblings, specifically sisters.
A brief note on technology: there are some books where the technology is only really there to draw in the reader; it’s not really there for story, but the ViSEs add to the story throughout the course of the novel. I appreciated this a lot, even though it’s just part of the world. It adds to the novel and brings out whole other types of suspense.
I can’t critique the plot. While I didn’t love everything that happened, everything that happened was necessary. Vicarious pulled off the thriller aspect very well without giving up the mystery aspect, and I couldn’t stop reading. It pulled me through to the very end, even though there were moments where the subplots would briefly take over (mostly the romance between Rose and Jesse).
Speaking of the romance, I can’t say I would read this one for the romance. It’s not exactly cute, it’s not always sweet, I don’t completely support it, but it’s not meant to deal in absolutes. It’s real, and while this isn’t my favorite of Paula’s books, there were many moments where Jesse and Winter are just there to support each other, and maybe that’s the best part of the relationships within this story.
The ending is the best part. Paula pulls off amazing twists and turns throughout this book, but the ending is, by far, the greatest. It left me wanting more in the best way, and I’m excited to see what kind of changes come to Winter’s world in the future. 4 stars.