Series: Variants #1
Genres: YA Paranormal Romance
Published by Razorbill on May 28, 2013
Source: Publicity Agency
Reviewed by: Abigail
Kissing. References to sex
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.
IMPOSTOR, the first book in Suzanne Winnacker's Variant series, is kind of like a teenage Sydney Bristow from Alias meets X-Men's Mystique. Tessa has been recruited to the FEA (Forces with Extraordinary Abilities) branch of the FBI. She's been training for two years and honing her chameleon-like ability to take on the appearance of anyone she touches. At sixteen she gets her first mission tracking a serial killer.
The premise is really strong and the investigation takes a number of cool turns, not the least of which is the whole Variant concept which includes all kinds of abilities from invisibility to mind reading. The Variant idea isn't groundbreaking, nor is Veronica Mars-esque teen investigator, but what made IMPOSTOR work was the mystery/thriller plot which, apart from an uneven start, kept me guessing and engaged until the very end.
While the story and concept were solid, there were a couple significant weaknesses. The writing isn't quite as good as I was hoping. It's very melodramatic, and the pacing was rushed. And Tessa as a character was really immature for someone in her situation. She was thoughtless and childish and realistically would never have been given as much control in a HUGE investigation based on her behavior. Which brings me to my second gripe with this book: the romance. It never came close to working for me. Alec, Tessa's slightly older trainer, is her longtime crush. He's got a girlfriend (who is a catty, vicious, witch--but a great guy like Alec is still into her), but he still has cuddling movie dates with Tessa and tons of almost-kissing moments. It made no sense that he would be interested in a girl as immature as Tessa despite their shared love of horror films.
Despite the flaws, the strength of the story carried me easily to the very last page of IMPOSTOR. Hopefully, Tessa will grow by the next book in the Variant series since I'd kinda like to see where her story goes.