Fantasy merges with Cold War hstory in gripping spy mystery.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers not familiar with the Soviet Union during the 1960s will learn more about Russian history after reading Sekret. The novel gives readers a different perspective of what it was like to live in Communist Russia under Nikita Kruschev -- a teens' eye view. The novel also digs deep into the Cold War and the KGB, the Soviet espionage and security agency at the time. Apart from the KGB, Sekret's main focus is the "space race," in which the Soviet Union and the United States competed to see who would be the first to fly into outer space and land on the moon. The novel also features interesting Russian locales, including Moscow, as well as Russian language and culture.

Positive messages

Strong messages about earning to trust others and your instincts, the importance of friendship and family, believing in yourself, love for family and friends, combatting bullies, and helping those need.

Positive role models

Yulia is a smart and likable heroine. She loves her family and will do anything to protect them. Yulia doesn't want to be a pawn in the KGB's game of trying to obtain secrets from the U.S. space program and the CIA. She wants to be a normal teen living with her family.Yulia's main goal in the novel is protecting her family, especially her younger brother. She also dreams of studying science at a university. There are other notable characters in the novel who help and hinder Yulia's mission to escape from the KGB's clutches, even as Yulia becomes more determined. The teens' powers add to the dimension of the characters and help Yulia to figure out the mystery behind her family's capture. 


Hand-to-hand combat, and pushing, shoving.


Mild flirting and kissing.

Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Sekert is a historical fantasy novel about a young Russian teen during the 1960s Soviet Union era, who's trained by the KGB to use her psychic powers to help them uncover secrets of the U.S. space program. There's some pushing, shoving, and hand-to-hand combat, and the sexual content is limited to mild flirting and couple of kisses. There's no strong language.

What's the story?

Yulia, a Russian teen, is psychic, but she really doesn't understand her powers or want them. She feels her power to detect emotions and see people's lives through touch is a burden. Yulia wants to be a normal teen, living with her family without the KGB and dictators ruling Russia. But when her family's captured by the KGB, she will do anything to get them back -- even play the agency's game: The KGB are training psychic teens to find out the secrets of the U.S. space program, as Russia and the United States are competing in the "space race." Yulia goes a long with them only to survive and figure out an escape. Soon she not only has the KGB watching her every move, but also the CIA. Yet, if Yulia wants to escape and save her family and herself, she must first she must figure out a way to get past her captors by training herself that "an empty mind is a safe mind."

Is it any good?


SEKRET is a fresh take on historical fiction. Readers will connect instantly with Yulia and root for her to escape the clutches of the KGB and find her beloved family. The novel is inspired by historical facts and filled with real-life locales and people, but it also has a dystopian feel. The blend of reality and fantasy will appeal to a variety of readers. Sekret has a literary quality to it and is filled with beautiful and haunting images. It's clear from the first page that Smith has done her research, has terrific knowledge of U.S. and Russian history, and is a foreign affairs writer. Her descriptions are extremely powerful and visual. But sometimes the novel feels weighed down by too much description.

Sekret is not a fast-paced read, but it holds a lot of secrets and surprises that will keep readers turning the pages. It also has many tense moments and fascinating characters, as well as a cliffhanger ending that will leave readers looking forward to the next installment in the series. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Cold War spying. Have you read any other stories about it, or seen any James Bond other movies featuring Russian spies?  

  • Why were the United States and Russia competing to go into space and get to the moon first?

  • Most every country has a spy agency, like the United States' CIA. What would it be like to actually have psychic spies? Would it work or hinder the espionage programs? 

Book details

Author:Lindsay Smith
Genre:Historical Fiction
Topics:Adventures, Friendship, Great boy role models, Great girl role models, History, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:April 1, 2014
Number of pages:352
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 18
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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