IMPOSTOR (Variants, #1)
Author: Susanne Winnacker
Published on: May 28, 2013
Genre: Sci-fi, romance
Format: E-book, paperback, Audible
Can Tessa pose as Madison . . . and stop a killer before it’s too late?
Tessa is a Variant, able to absorb the DNA of anyone she touches and mimic their appearance. Shunned by her family, she’s spent the last two years training with the Forces with Extraordinary Abilities, a secret branch of the FBI. When a serial killer rocks a small town in Oregon, Tessa is given a mission: she must impersonate Madison, a local teen, to find the killer before he strikes again.
Tessa hates everything about being an impostor—the stress, the danger, the deceit—but loves playing the role of a normal girl. As Madison, she finds friends, romance, and the kind of loving family she’d do anything to keep. Amid action, suspense, and a ticking clock, this super-human comes to a very human conclusion: even a girl who can look like anyone struggles the most with being herself.
If the catchy cover art doesn’t convince you to pick up this book (at least, the American version), trust the highly favorable reviews that it’s earned. I enjoy books (and movies) about people who can do stuff that normal people can’t do. It’s my favorite branch of science fiction.
Impostor is told from the POV of Tessa, the protagonist. She’s a teenage girl working with the FEA (Forces with Extraordinary Abilities). It is a secret branch of the FBI that employs super-powered agents. The book uses its own terminology, though. People with powers are known as “Variants,” and the superpowers themselves are known as “Variations.” Tessa’s Variation is that she can change her physical appearance to mimic that of anyone. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Tessa differs from Mystique in that she can’t transform the appearance of her clothes. It makes more sense to me than Mystique’s power, especially when she turns into someone with glasses. Where do they come from? Anyway, Tessa also needs physical contact to turn into someone for the first time. Her body absorbs their DNA, “filing” it away for later use.
At the start of the novel, Tessa has been training with the FEA for two years. She is called into her first field mission. Tessa has to move to a small town and investigate a serial killer case with suspected Variant involvement. To solve the case, Tessa has to pose as Madison, the only victim who survived long enough for Tessa to collect her DNA. The stress of having to pretend to be someone for an extended period keeps Tessa on edge. She’s afraid of acting out of character or losing control of her Variation.
To aid in her mission, Tessa is accompanied by Alec, a fellow FEA agent with super-strength. He happens to be Tessa’s crush, though, which brings an interesting dynamic to the book. Alec is already in a relationship with another FEA agent, a woman completely different from Tessa. This makes for a constant inner conflict for Tessa. She can’t help but long for Alec, who is very protective of her. Tessa is rather whiny about it, but give her a break, you can hardly expect Agent Romanoff-esque professionalism from a girl who’s barely sixteen. She’s only a Padawan.
For a rookie agent, Tessa got a rather dangerous case to solve. As the days pass, her own and the FEA’s lists of suspects grows. Simultaneously, Tessa begins to care for the family of the girl she’s pretending to be. Tessa’s own mother left her a couple of years ago, and her father is unknown. This makes Tessa consider to become Madison permanently, even though she won’t be allowed to do that. Living in someone else’s life soon becomes natural enough to Tessa that it feels weird to her when she returns to her own body. It doesn’t help that Madison’s family is very loving, especially the uncles.
Tessa isn’t completely alone despite having no parents, though. Other than Alec, she has a best friend named Holly. The latter is also a FEA agent, and her Variation is invisibility. Being young girls, the two often have fun with their Variations. They also envy each other’s powers, in a good-natured kind of way. Holly also differs from Tessa in that she has a loving family. None of them have a Variation, and they don’t discriminate their own daughter for having one. I think Holly is pretty cool. She’s one of those best friends you wish you had. Unlike some best friends who are supporting characters, Holly doesn’t steal the show. That doesn’t mean she’s boring. Holly is quite entertaining, and has a bubbly personality akin to Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl.
I enjoyed the mystery aspects of the book. The author included a few characters that keep you guessing who the real killer is–although that’s not their sole purpose. When you think you already know the killer’s identity, be prepared to be thrown for a loop. Although the book was a bit shorter than I would have liked (due to being in the YA genre), it is excellent. I liked the characters, and they feel believable. You won’t find much of a police-procedural here, though. This novel focuses more on the characters and the mission than on the FEA and its methods. I’d describe the book as sci-fi romance with elements of mystery. There’s a lot more of the latter than action, though.
Seriously liked it!
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