Tessa has a variant ability that is deemed top-notch, the ability to shift physical forms. She can shapeshift into anyone whos DNA she has been ability to absorb. She’s spent her life training with the FEA, a secret division of the FBI that uses variants abilities to help solve crimes, and now they say she’s ready for her first mission: impersonate high school student Madison to assist in finding a small town serial killer. But once she assumes the role, she becomes way too content to play through Madison’s life as a normal teenager. This role has afforded her things she has never had before: caring parents, friends, and a overprotective brother. With everything riding on her role, can she pull herself out of the fantasy long enough to find the killer?
Okay, so when I saw this up on NetGalley, I got all grabby hands. I really enjoyed Susanne Winnacker’s previous dystopian, The Other Life, and this promises X-Men like epic-ness, so I was all for it. I was overjoyed to get approved and started it rather quickly, but it really failed to captivate my full attention. I make no secret of the fact that I read multiple books at once, usually the most interesting one is what I pick up most and this kept falling by the wayside. I kept ignoring it for anything else I was reading. It took me over a month to get through it, which doesn’t bode well. I cannot pinpoint exactly what was wrong except that it was a bit boring. The tag line on NetGalley promises X-Men meets Veronica Mars, which is probably too much pressure to live up to.
For once, the heroine wasn’t my problem. Tessa is strong and brave, if a little scared and entirely too easy to sympathize with, with that unrequited love and terrible parents aspect going. Her mother doesn’t really give a shit about her and she has never met her father. After she moved in with Madison’s family, she has a difficult time separating herself from the job and comes to genuinely care for all of them, making her job that much more difficult. Her obsession with fellow Variant Alec was both endearing and annoying.
Alec, well, I’m on the fence about him. It’s obvious he has feelings for Tessa, but he hides behind a bitchy girlfriend and claims he can never be more than friends with Tessa, but the protectiveness and sidelong glances speak volumes. I hate the cheating thing. I hate the “justified” cheating thing even more. They don’t do more than kiss, but he is still with his girlfriend the first time they kiss and I can’t stand that. I understand destiny or fate or whatever you wish to label it as, but seriously, dude, if you like her that much, treat her with some fucking respect.
The entire murder mystery was interesting, but I couldn’t bring myself to really care too deeply about it. I will say that the true killer was an entire surprise to me, so kudos for that. This novel almost felt like the author was trying to fit a bit too much into a measly 300 or so pages. You’ve got the killer to find, the lovefest with Alec to ponder, the idea that maybe the FEA is hiding something, the realization of imminent danger, Tessa’s interactions (or lack thereof) with her family, Tessa’s (and Alec’s) history, and so much more. Maybe if it had been a bit longer and spent more on each segment, things would have worked out better. Also, I hated how it skirted love triangle territory. ****SPOILER****Though Tessa will never admit it outright, she is attracted to Devon, Madison’s brother. Nothing happens between the two here, obviously since she’s impersonating his sister, but you can feel the love triangle coming, especially since it turns out Devon is a variant and he joins the FEA. Alec had better enjoy his time with Tess while he can because soon, she’ll be falling all over herself to be closer to Devon.****END SPOILER****
Though the concept for this is great, the reality is mediocre. The characters are interesting, but none of them really connected with me. The writing is great, if a bit dull. The plot was completely twist-y and I didn’t see most of the twists coming, but somehow that doesn’t raise my opinion any. Bottom line? It’s an interesting read that has room for improvement.
****Thank you to Hodder Children’s Books, an imprint of Hachette Children’s Books, for providing me with an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review****