Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pretending That I'm Doing Well

Published:  January 2nd, 2014
By: Susanne Winnacker
Hoddor Children's Books
ISBN-13:  9781444916171

Tessa is a variant with extraordinary abilities.  She could be a hero, but all she wants to do is fall in love...

Tessa is a variant, able to absorb the DNA of anyone she touches and mimic their appearance.  Shunned by her family, she's spent the last two years with the Forces of Extraordinary Abilities, a secret branch of the FBI.  There she trains with other variants, such as long-term crush Alec, who each have their own extraordinary ability.

When a serial killer rocks a small town in Oregon, Tessa is given a mission: she must impersonate Madison, a local teen, to find the killer before he strikes again.  Tessa hates everything about being an imposter - the stress, the danger, the deceit - but loves playing the role of a normal girl.  As Madison, she finds friends, romance, and the kind of loving family she'd do anything to keep.

Amid action, suspense, and a ticking clock, this super-human comes to a very human conclusion: even a girl who can look like anyone struggles the most with being herself.


     Tessa has lived a hard life, with her abusive mother, an absent father and a string of horrible step-dads.  Now she is living with a group of people who are special like she is - they're known as variants.  At a government sponsored training facility, the variant teens are learning how to use their special abilities to help the U.S. government from behind the scenes.  Tessa's ability is especially unique.  She can transform into anyone she's ever touched.  So when a serial killer starts killing people in small-town Oregon, it's time for Tessa's first solo mission - to impersonate Madison, one of the killer's victims who is dying of her injuries.  Taking over Madison's life, it's up to Tessa to find the killer and bring him to justice, before there are any more victims.  But with a family, friends and people that actually care about her, Tessa is beginning to want to stay in Madison's life, permanently.  She can only run so far from herself and her past before everything comes back to haunt her.....
     So, I went into this one excited for something that would be reminiscent of X-Men and have some butt-kicking action to it's story.  That isn't quite how this book went down though.  In reality, this is more of a feelings book with powers, than the other way around.  The first part of the book introduces us the idea of variants, Tessa as a person and her history, hot best friend (who Tessa wants to be more) Alec, her friend Holly and mean girl Kate (who is sort of dating Alec).  I understood where Tessa was coming from, with her past of being abused and abandoned.  That shit messes a person up.  But her fixation of Alec was just embarrassing.  And she lets Holly talk her into transforming into Kate so that she can kiss Alec.  Of course he finds out it's really her, and it's a truly humiliating episode, which is difficult to read about because it's such an immature betrayal of trust on her part.  I felt like Alec was kind of an asshole anyways, treating Tessa like a potential girlfriend half the time, and the rest of it was spent treating her like a petulant child or a complete stranger.  He sends off some of the most confusing signals EVER.
     The real heart of the book and most of what I enjoyed about it, started when Tessa begins to live Madison's life.  The mystery about the serial killer was intriguing, and there was a nice twist about the motivations that I probably should have seen coming, but didn't.  But I never considered the situation as anything other than a run-of-the-mill, everyday, garden variety serial killer!  Tessa's emotions are stressed to the breaking point, falling in love with Madison's family and experiencing a sense of belonging for the first time ever, all the while lying to them and pretending to be their dead daughter.  Plus there's the problem that Madison's twin brother is one of the suspects in the case - so is her ex-boyfriend, who refuses to let her go.  The mystery was the best part of this book.  The romance was disappointing and as I've seen other people point out, there will definitely be a love triangle in the next book!  And I'm not sure how I feel about that, because I'm already rooting for the dark horse in that triangle (i.e. not Alec!!!).  Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to seeing the direction the next one goes in.  I'd recommend it if you're a fan of X-Men, but don't mind trading the action for a whodunit!  And P.S., I LOVE that cover!  It is absolutely representative of the book and I love looking at the differences between half-Madison and half-Tessa! :D

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, Hodor Children's Books, via NetGalley.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book was published January 2nd, 2014.*

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