Jia’s note: I’m reviewing the UK edition. The US edition was published in 2013. I don’t think there are any differences between the two editions other than publisher but if there are, please let us know in the comments!
Dear Ms. Winnacker,
The more YA novels I read, the more I realize my tastes have shifted from paranormals to science fiction. This isn’t a bad thing but it’s good to know. When I read the description of your novel on NetGalley, it reminded me of X-Men (in a good way). That was enough to catch my interest. I have a soft spot for X-Men.
Tessa is a Variant, a person with unusual abilities. Her talent is the ability to absorb the DNA of anyone she touches and assume their appearance. She currently trains with the FEA (Forces with Extraordinary Abilities), a secret branch of the FBI. As you can imagine, Tessa’s ability would be coveted by any number of organizations, both legit and criminal.
Finally, after all her training, Tessa is given her first official mission. A string of unsolved murders has struck a small town and she’s sent to find the killer. The latest victim is currently in the hospital, barely kept alive on life support. When the girl, Madison, eventually dies, Tessa is to assume her identity.
She does so successfully but complications arise as Tessa slips easily into Madison’s life. First, she soon falls in love with Madison’s family. And secondly, Madison had some secrets of her own.
This was a fun, fast read. It’s in no way original but sometimes you need the light, entertaining reads. I found my initial impression of the X-Men feel spot-on. In fact, the beginning reminded me of the old X-Men: Evolution cartoon. Depending on your feelings about X-Men, this will give readers an idea of whether they’d be interested in this book.
I thought Tessa falling in love with Madison’s home life was completely believable. Her biological father walked out when she was a baby and her mother absolutely hated Tessa’s abilities. Seriously, from what it sounds like, Tessa’s mother was abusive. It’s no surprise that Tessa developed a bit of a complex about her status as a Variant. It’s an awesome ability but if your own mother calls you a freak and monster, well, that leaves a mark on a child. This is one case where I can understand the protagonist’s wish to be a normal girl.
I’m torn about the romantic subplot. Tessa’s love interest is Alec, another member of the FEA. (His ability is super strength.) He was her very first friend at the institute and that relationship has sustained her throughout training. But her feelings for him run deeper than the platonic. Normally, I’m all for the friends to lovers trope. It’s one of my favorites.
But Alec has a girlfriend. I generally don’t like cheating storylines, main or supporting, but I especially dislike it when it pits girls against each other. Alec’s girlfriend is beautiful, elite and, of course, a bitch. It’s like a Taylor Swift song, which is not something a story needs to aspire to, as far as I’m concerned. Even without that aspect, though, I just didn’t understand why Alec was dating Kate in the first place. Half the time he doesn’t even seem to like her and prefers to spend time with Tessa instead. I needed something to understand what Alec saw in Kate. Even if it were, “Kate is hot,” that would have been an acceptable reason.
One character I did like a lot was Devon, Madison’s twin. There were moments where I wasn’t entirely sure if the narrative was setting him up as another love interest for Tessa in future books. I don’t have an opinion about this development either way, but there were scenes that made me wonder. He is the only character who notices that “Madison” isn’t acting like herself and suspects something is off. At times I wish more had been done with this.
While not the most original story, I thought Imposter was an enjoyable book. There were a couple dropped, unresolved plotlines (like the bit about Madison and the teacher) but overall, the novel worked well. I can tell it’s part of a series but it works well as a standalone. I think fans of X-Men will like this one. B-