Vicarious, by Paula Stokes

kiaramedina's review

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This book features a plot twist I didn’t see coming. Usually when I read thrillers, I like coming up with over the top scenerios that I don’t think the author will do, and usually I’m wrong (ironically enough, I guessed the plot twists in Liars, Inc, also by Paula Stokes, by doing this and I was so happy that my convoluted train of thought worked).

If you enjoy gritty, dark, and painfully real trillers, this one will stay with you. It’s twisted and keeps you reading in the same way that Gone Girl probably did.

Originally, I gave Vicarious 4 stars, because it’s an excellent book, complete with character arcs, and feels, and pain and 10/10 story telling, but it is not the kind of book that I will read over and over again. Like I mentioned before, this book is a lot darker than I’m used to reading, but if you like dark, Vicarious will meet your expecations.

hspaulds's review

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Lots of really cool twists and turns -- especially in the third act -- I loved it!

smileydmd's review

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Wow. The only word I can use to properly express my feelings about this book is shook.

There are so many twists and turns that I never expected. I had my suspicions of who was the killer but this book did not end the way I expected it to. It was full of suspense and I couldn't stop reading. I adore the way Stokes writes relatable and real characters with real struggles they have to deal with every day such as anxiety.

Amazing work. I need the sequel now.

loveisnotatriangle's review

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This book is a rush. Fast paced and intense. I was kept reading quickly and guessing up to the end. I was right there along with Winter trying to figure everything out. This girl has gone through a lot and because of that finds it easier to participate and record extreme sports and other dangerous activities than get close to people. It was both painful and rewarding to watch her begin to open up and face her past in this book. Especially as that happens when she discovers her beloved sister Rose had been murdered. Rose has always been the rock in Winter's life, a constant presence through everything. Winter is devastated when she discovers that she's been killed, and determined to do everything she can to find out what happened.

Gideon is Rose's ex boyfriend as well as Winter's boss and owner of the company that produces ViSEs. When I started this, I was worried he was going to turn into a love interest, and I was very happy that doesn't happen at all. Gideon is like an older brother to Winter, and very protective of her. We find out a lot more about Gideon through this book too. He definitely surprised me in places, but he is one of my favorite characters.

Jesse is Winter's ViSE partner. They work together recording extreme activities like bungee jumping and shark diving. I like Jesse a lot. It's clear he cares about Winter, and I liked that when the book begins they already know each other. The romance isn't by any means the focus of the story, though it is an important element. Jesse and Winter spend a lot of time together, and I really enjoyed seeing them begin to open up more to each other. They are both a little damaged and make some mistakes with each other, but I really appreciated the rawness in their relationship.

I didn't expect how heavy this book would be when I started it - in terms of what Winter goes through and the things she faces about her past and herself. There were some elements of this story that were hard for me, and I'm still not sure what I think about them. The revelations at the ending were also tough. It's going to be difficult to wait for the next one, but I am desperate to read it!

Love Triangle Factor: none
Spoilerbut DM me directly if you are hyper sensitive to them

Cliffhanger scale: on the higher side of medium.

kimberly_blotevogel89's review

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You know a book is good whenever it keeps you up all night because you have to know what happens next! I LOVED this story! It kept me guessing the whole way through and now I am dying to read book 2! If you are looking for a thrill ride, this is it!

snowwhitehatesapples's review

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Review can also be found here.

This review is written based on reading the 100-page preview excerpt obtained from Netgalley, so beware: spoilers!

Rating:3.5 Stars

Whoever compares Winter Kim to Black Widow needs a swift smack from reality because you’re comparing a women who was trained to become what she is since she was a kid (in Richard K. Morgan’s Black Widow run, Natasha’s one of many young orphaned girls trained at an early age by Petrovitch at the Red Room under the Black Widow Ops program) and who has killed hundreds without batting an eye, to some teenager who recently gotten PTSD, had a traumatic childhood and became some sort of a BAMF (‘Bad Ass Mother F****r’ for those who don’t know) in three years even though she has never held a gun until recently or even killed anyone before. In all of seriousness, Winter Kim is barely a quarter of who Natalia "Natasha" Romanova is.

Also, can YA authors please stop using the bloody ‘My sister’s prettier than me and I refuse to use makeup because I don’t want to be a faker’ trope because we sure as hell know that Winter’s one of those pretty girls since “[p]eople say we look alike, but what they mean is that we look alike except she's more striking. She has the same basic bone structure and pale skin, but bigger eyes, fuller lips, longer hair, and now, apparently, curlier eyelashes” (p.14). Like, excuse you, whether your sister’s more “striking” or not, that still means you’re one hell of a better-looking-than-average person, especially when a minor celebrity mistakes you for your sister. This kind of typical denial is starting to irritate me because 90% of the YA/NA heroines are certainly not average-looking in any sense at all. They always have something beautiful to them and nine out of ten times, it’s a physical feature or two.

Seriously, I find the ‘A-side’ Special Snowflake Syndrome characters (those who actually believe that they’re special unique snowflakes) more tolerable than those of the ‘B-side’ Special Snowflake Syndrome characters (those who imply that they’re ‘not like all the others’ because they do some other perfectly normal yet non-stereotypical gendered activities instead). Therefore, combining Winter’s good looks with her near-magical BAMF-ness, PTSD, a traumatic childhood and her being a Korean immigrant, simply makes her the more dislikeable B-side Special Snowflake. Especially, when the written fact that her PTSD is “never anything that serious” even “at its worse” is taken into considerations as well (p.15). It’s like she’s tooting her own horn.

That aside, I have a few more issues with Vicarious but one of the mains ones is its logistics. Firstly, that ambulance scene smack-dab in the beginning is rather questionable. How does one who’s lying down, wipe blood away on one’s nightgown without noticing first the bulky oxygen/breathing mask obscuring half of your lower vision? I’ve been in an ambulance, I’ve worn the oxygen mask. So yes, questioning this scene very hard right now. Also, Rose is pretty chill even though her sister’s in the ambulance. Seriously, who in the world “…chides the men for scaring…” a patient in a bloody ambulance (p.10)? A definite wrong choice of words here because it gives me the feeling that Rose is the one who directly caused her sister to be in such situation rather than whatever other supposed external or internal factor. Unless, of course, the purpose of this is to actually clue the reader in that yes, it’s Rose who caused that.

Additionally, that part in the beginning where Gideon and Rose actually have a conversation with eyes alone (not even including their eyebrows!) has me wondering if my future boyfriend will be able to do this with me. Since Gideon and Rose surely can, I’m pretty sure mine won’t accuse me of having high standards and thinking that he’s psychic because the both of us will totally be able to talk and understand each other through our eyes (remember, no eyebrows or any other facial feature) without any possibility of miscommunication at all!

Moving on, some of the dialogue tags used here are rather redundant. For example, “‘Oppa!’ I say a bit forcefully” (p.63). I believe that the inclusion of the exclamation point already serves the purpose of showing the readers that Winter is certainly stressing the word. Additionally, there are also some inconsistencies in the use of contractions in the narratives—like going from ‘I’m’ to ‘I am’ within two consecutive sentences. I understand that there are inconsistencies in real life, but it nevertheless felt odd reading them. And, on the topic of feeling odd reading something, even though I do have some Korean friends who spell their romanised names with a space in between characters, it still felt strange reading the Korean names as ‘Ki Hyun’ and not as ‘Kihyun’ or ‘Ki-hyun’ as well.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I found quite a number of faults with the 100 pages of this novel that I’ve read, but there are good points as well. One such good point would be Paula Stokes’ writing. Engaging and with a good balance of descriptions and dialogue, there was never a dull moment despite my constant questioning of certain aspects. Furthermore, it helped that the plot built up nicely, though at this point, the prologue doesn’t really seem have any importance because those bits of facts can surely be inserted in the other chapters instead—as flashbacks or something. Other than that, I like the idea of ViSEs—very interesting and outside of manga and comics, it’s a concept that I’ve previously not read about.

Another good point of this book is that Stokes’ portrayal of people of colour, especially the Koreans, don’t feel too confined to stereotypes or incredibly whitewashed. However, do note that aside from similarities with my own culture, I’m not as knowledgeable about the Korean culture as I do with the Japanese or the majority ‘other’ cultures in my country, so I’m not really sure how stereotyped or whitewashed Winter, Rose and Gideon are. Nevertheless, I have to say that it’s also due to that feeling of them not being to confined to stereotypes or incredibly whitewashed, that there’s another feeling that the Korean characters can simply be replaced by ones of other races as well since there’s not exactly a deeper instillation of ‘being Korean’ here. I’m not certain how to explain this but it feels like something is missing.

All in all, the first hundred pages of Vicarious were a better-than-average read despite some setbacks. I’m definitely eager to know what happens next, and the excitement/anxiety is enough for me to push away quite a bit of what I didn’t like about this book as well.

rachelannekass's review

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This book was so much different than (arguably) her most famous YA novel, Girls Against the Universe, but Paula Stokes still managed to wow me on many fronts! This book was jam packed full of adventure, no shortage of romance, but not in the "boy meets girl" way most YA novels pan out, and is super unique in content.

Check out my full review here:

sam207n's review

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Stokes is a genius. She created a female main character that was so human it almost hurt to read about her.

Read my full review here:

fionak's review

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This novel's kind of a Monet: when you take a step back its really beautiful but if you lean in, its a hot mess. When I got to the end, I was like, "Oh, that was really clever," but I was never really engaged by the story. The execution keeps falling over itself trying to get out of the way and so it all seems awkward and stilted. The first few chapters really shouldn't be there at all; the cover art shows the scene where the novel should have begun (and the cover art should have been a collage of multiple scenes, imo). Most irritatingly, there are these intermittent descriptions of inane events (such as showering or getting dressed or eating) that serve no purpose other than to disrupt enjoyment of the narrative flow. (Knowing that our narrator dried herself with a towel that was fluffy and white in no way improves the story for me. She's clean, I get it! Let's move on with the story that I was almost engrossed in!)

tabbitapse's review

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Wow!! So much trash in one book.
I read this because someone on Instagram said if you loved Ready Player One, then you will love this. Well, no! There is not a single RPO vibe going on EVER!
Also: the story is so, so boring. It tries way too hard the entire time.
The characters suck. Like big time! The protagonist loses her sister and she‘s sad for like 1 hour and then she‘s totally fine and starts dating a friend a day later. Sure thing. I‘d react the same way if my sister, who was established as my anchor and only family I have left, that I went through hell with and only survived because of her, died.
And don’t even get me started ok the whole „plot twist ending explanation“ thing. Holy shit was that a mess.
The protagonist being Korean feels so embarrassingly fake. The entire time you just know it’s a white chick writing this that is obsessed with Korea. And then you look at the author‘s profile and sure thing, that’s exactly what it is.
I highly recommend you not read this book as it is not worth your time.