Cybils Speculative Reads: VICARIOUS by PAULA STOKES

Welcome to the 2016 Cybils Speculative Reader!

As a first run reader for the Cybils, I’ll be briefly introducing you to the books on the list, giving you a mostly unbiased look at some of the plot.

Writing inclusive speculative fiction is easily doable for a lot of people — just, craft your imaginary world, know a great deal about the community and individuals who you’re portraying — de rigueur for any writer — and then add them to the imaginary-ness of your speculative fiction. Done. I’m grateful that Paula Stokes decided to not white-default this novel. Though the Kim girls’ culture doesn’t figure largely into the story, it’s worth having an Asian girl on the cover of the novel, and

Synopsis: Winter and Rose have been sisters like matching gloves, striving together all their lives, from their time in the Korean orphanage to their being brought to the U.S. and “adopted” only to be exploited and trafficked. Now they’re out and away from their past — though it has left indelible scars on them both. The girls work for Gideon Seung, Rose’s onetime boyfriend, recording their thrill-ride life experiences for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Dancing all night, jumping from a bridge, hooking up with random hotties: the girls have done it all — and will do it all — for Gideon. After all, he saved them.

But, then, Rose vanishes. Her ViSE is returned – with her murder on it. Winter can’t find her emotions anymore — she bounces from panicked to terrified to determined. All she wants is revenge, served ice cold. But nothing is as she thinks it might be — and as the clues mount up, and her friend Jesse does his best to help her recreate Rose’s last days, what Winter thought she knew turns out to be a lie.

Observations: There are many novels about women who have survived abuse, and novels about their emotional struggles. Though we’re told early on that Winter and Rose are both struggling emotionally, we don’t know how bad it is. I am not yet sure how I feel about the plot twist, and the girls’ struggling from the past coming through as part of the plot twist. We get so many “strong female character” novels that when I read one which features a strong woman who breaks, it’s uncomfortable. Many won’t have seen the plot twist coming, and others will find it upsetting in that it draws into question the whole first half of the novel. Will this turn you off from finishing the novel? Probably not, especially since the novel rebounds and ends on an upswing which promises more story to come.

Conclusion: An adventure, this novel has some suspenseful thriller elements, and a plot twist which may be seen coming by some, but may be an affront to others. The novel ends this episode, but there’s clearly room for more — and this is a duology after all, so there will be another story in this universe. All in all, this is a fast-paced, engaging novel to pack in a bag to keep you engrossed during a long train ride.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of Tor Books. You can find VICARIOUS by Paula Stokes at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

About the author

tanita s. davis is a writer and avid reader who prefers books to most things in the world, including people. That's ...pretty much it, she's very boring and she can't even tell jokes. She is, however, the author of nine books, including Serena Says, Partly Cloudy, Go Figure, Henri Weldon, and the Coretta Scott King honored Mare's War. Look for her new MG, The Science of Friendship in 1/2024 from Katherine Tegen Books.

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