Vicarious – Paula Stokes



A Korean teen who escaped trafficking tries to rebuld her life with the help of her sister and her protector. She takes risks that only increase when it seems her sister has been abducted and killed.


Paula Stokes writes smoothly, but with an inclination toward choppy prose and dramatic pauses. Every chapter ends with a brief, blunt, dramatically-intended wrap-up statement, and they’re liberally sprinkled (poured?) throughout the book.

It’s annoying.

That’s really the theme of the book as well – drama at all cost. While Vicarious pretends to be about the inner life of a troubled teen, every moment is drawn to maximize not character engagement, but drama.

It gets tiring.

The plot itself felt very B-movie – amnesia, vague technology, assorted villains, ambiguous good guys – played out with plenty of surprises for which the foundation hadn’t been laid, including for the key twist at the end. Making things worse was a view of gender relations that I just don’t subscribe to – very Harlequin romance protective-male, even as the heroine goes around intending to show she doesn’t need protection.

It’s counterproductive.

Stokes was clearly aiming to write a thriller, not a piece of social commentary, so it may be unfair to hold the book to a very high standard. But I found the flaws of style and construction so pervasive that they kept me from enjoying the thriller elements, and the weakness of the ending in particular left me uninterested. If you’re looking for a Clive Cussler-style airplane read, you could do worse, but if you want a book that’s interesting and fun to read, you could do a lot better.

Read a different book.

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