Fighter. Faker. Student. Spy.
Seventeen-year-old Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she’s ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. Falling in love with the boy next door was never part of the plan. Now Reagan must decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she’s always wanted? And does she even have a choice?
Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, published January 10th, 2017, via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.
You Don’t Know My Name is hard to draw a solid conclusion on because the first half and the second half are so drastically different.
The first focuses almost exclusively on the romance, to the point where I almost gave up on the story altogether. It does set up Reagan’s life as a spy-in-training, but mostly it centers around her life undercover, bantering with her friends, wondering about college, and falling in love for the first time.
It was fun to read, but it wasn’t what I wanted or what I had been expecting. From the blurb, I thought it was more Gallagher Girls, but what I got from the first half was more like Disney Channel’s Princess Protection Program–amusing, but just as bubblegum as it sounds.
While I thought Kirstin Orlando’s contemporary and day-to-day life writing was pretty weak, I also thought that her grasp of relationships was well-done. Reagan and her parents didn’t always agree, but their close relationship was great to see. Her romance with Luke was also realistic and heartfelt. It had great buildup, and it was much cleaner than I expected for a read from SwoonReads that had such a heavy focus on the romance in the beginning. The relationships with the rest of the supporting characters was forgettable, but they weren’t terrible.
The second half is a huge turnaround where everything Orlando set up in the first half comes into play. No spoiler spoilers, but for the sake of helping you know what to expect, Reagan ends up having to travel to Colombia to help save her parents on a mission gone wrong. With this shift, Reagan is able to go into action and truly show us what she’s all about. The pace speeds up significantly, and the romance fades into the background.
It was in the second half that I truly began to enjoy the novel and appreciate the author’s writing. I couldn’t believe how thriller-esque the plot became and was pleasantly surprised. The action scenes were pretty intense, and, moreover, Reagan’s shift from cover to super spy was believable. The details were kept in order as well–the upkeep of the romance was great, and everything came together nicely in an ending that I wasn’t expecting.
All in all, the transition between the first and the second halves was rocky, but otherwise, this wasn’t a bad debut. Would I recommend it? I would tentatively say yes. It had great elements to it, and I think that if I was more of a fan of heavy romance/contemporary in my spy novels, then I would’ve fallen in love with this read. If you’re a fan of Ally Carter’s novels, I would recommend this one to you. If you’re looking for something a little less romance-based, then I would recommend Paula Stokes’ Vicarious. Looking forward to the next book.