Blog Tour Guest Post: Sekret by Lindsay Smith + Giveaway

I'm so excited today to be part of the blog tour for Lindsay Smith's debut, Sekret! Big thank-yous to Macmillan and Lindsay. This is one book I have been looking forward to for ages!

First, a bit about the book:
Sekret by Lindsay Smith.

Sekret #1.
Published: April 1, 2014.
Published by: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan)

An empty mind is a safe mind.
Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Lindsay is here today to share a bit about the setting of Sekret, Soviet Russia! Welcome, Lindsay.

Mystery, Riddle, Enigma: The Allure of a Russian Setting 

As an ‘80s child, my earliest memory of world news was the fall of the Berlin Wall, the domino that set off the Soviet Union’s collapse. It was fascinating to grow up in a world of transition, as attitudes toward Russia and the former soviet republics rearranged. My grandparents subscribed to National Geographic, and every year we got a new globe beach ball for me to play with, and I love watching Europe and Asia subdivide like cells into ever smaller fragments that used to be one solid color for the USSR: here the Czechs and Slovaks split, there the Balkans shattered, and new colors blossomed everywhere. 

My middle school required at least a year of foreign language study, and I immediately felt drawn to Russian. Our awesome teach was a former US Army linguist who was passionate about teaching—not just the Cyrillic alphabet and dense, elaborate grammar structures, but the Russian arts, history, and culture as well. Every day I walked into her classroom and marveled at the slogans she’d taped up over the chalkboard: MOSCOW DOESN’T BELIEVE IN TEARS. I took two student exchange trips with her class in middle school and high school, during the frenetic Yeltsin years, and my love for the Russian enigma—neither east nor west, no longer soviet but still snuffling around for democracy—only grew. 

Needless to say, one of my college majors was Russian Studies. (I also majored in music and computer security, but c’mon, Russian was way cooler.) Much of the baseline for my research into writing Sekret is from the accumulated knowledge of all this obsessive study, but it hey, it never hurts to BUY MORE BOOKS, all in the name of research! 

The history of late Imperial Russia and the early to middle Soviet Union is one of my favorite stretches of time—trauma and chaos and ideological fervor and unifying wars and a determined march toward perfection, however misguided. Anne Applebaum’s The Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe splendidly (though frightfully) illuminates the Soviet Union’s oil-slick spread, while Doug Smith’s Former People highlights the plight of the nobles who found themselves gutted, beheaded, gulaged, and more in the wake of “progress” and “redistribution.” For a comprehensive survey of the Russian Revolution and Lenin and Stalin eras, you can’t go wrong with Richard Suny’s The Soviet Experiment. 

For a later examination of the Cold War, K Blows Top by Peter Carlson highlights the sometimes hilarious, often scary, never boring personality of Nikita Khruschev, including the infamous Disneyland incident. A more serious and soul-ripping story spans the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, chronicling life in the gulag prison system, to The Gulag Archipelago. For an exploration of the space race and its heroes (and victims), I highly recommend Starman, a biography of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and the tale of his doomed friendship with the cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. 

While the history of Sekret only reaches into the 1960s, modern post-Soviet Russia is no less mysterious and enigmatic, as current events hasten to remind us. Anna Politkovskaya was a fearless journalist who exposed a great deal of military and political corruption and mismanagement under Vladimir Putin prior to her murder in 2007. Masha Gessen studies life under Putin in The Man Without a Face, while David Satter perfectly captures Russians’ fatalistic attitude toward their dark history with the brilliantly titled It Was a Long Time Ago and It Never Happened Anyway. 

But history is only a part of the Russian identity—I tried to weave as much Russian music and literature into Sekret as was natural, to add texture to an otherwise bleak environment largely sealed off from the pop culture of the rest of the world in the 1960s. Russian literature, from Dostoevsky to Bulgakov to Tolstoy, is dense and dark and yet endlessly absorbing; the Russian poets, too, like Anna AkhmatovaAleksandr Pushkin, Boris Pasternak, and Yevgenny Yevtushenko mete out the lushness and desperation with even hands. Finally, I’d challenge anyone to listen to Tchaikovsky’s and Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos without being swept away by the Russian riddle. There’s always a new corner to explore, and always a new mystery to solve. 

I absolutely love learning about what inspires settings that are unique in YA like this, but this is above and beyond! Thank you, Lindsay, for sharing! I'll definitely have to grab some of those books and brush up on my Russian history.

Author links:
Follow Lindsay Smith on Twitter!
See Lindsay Smith on the Fierce Reads Tour in May!
Check out Lindsay Smith’s website and her blog!
Read Doppel, a new short story by Lindsay Smith set in the world of Sekret.
Download and read (for free) the first five chapters of Sekret.

Click here to follow the rest of the blog tour for more fantastic posts from Lindsay!

Macmillan has kindly offered to send one lucky US/Canada winner a hardcover copy of Sekret! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I love historical fiction and I think the added aspect of psychic spy's will give a interesting twist. Thanks for the giveaway.

  2. (This is Darith L)

    This book sounds so awesome! Psychic spies? Historical fiction? Kick-ass protagonist? YES!

  3. this isn't my typical read, but the synopsis caught my fancy. I think this would be super interesting.

  4. I can't think of any books that I've read set in Russia! I can tell that you're passionate about it though, so this definitely seems like the book to start with! Thanks for sharing! :D

  5. Historical fiction is something I just started reading in the past year. I've only read one other book that took place in Russia so I'm looking forward to Sekret.

  6. Gosh I am DYING to read this one!!! I love Historical Fiction and Sekret sounds right up my alley!!!

  7. I love that cover! Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. This book just sounds so cool and I love that cover! The main character sounds all kinds of awesome too!

  9. Christina R. in the rafflecopter

    This is so cool to see the author passionate about this period in history and Russian culture since childhood! Her studies are fascinating and very thrilling :)

    Lovely post :)

  10. This post is so awesome! I don't think I've ever read a YA book set in Soviet Russia, so I'm incredibly excited to learn more about the setting by reading the book. I loved hearing about the author's passion for it, and I agree - it's pretty fascinating.


I'd love to hear what you think!