Alex/Juliana is a graduate of Columbia who is recruited while still in Med School to join a government agency so secret it doesn’t have a name. She does chemical research and is employed as an interrogator which provides the application for her research. She is not-so-subtly fired when there’s an explosion in her lab. It kills her mentor but she is spared on a fluke because she happens to be in the bathroom. She then spends three years on the run. Eventually, her old boss offers a contract job with high stakes as her way back in.
Off the shelf, I had already read the synopsis inside the cover before realizing it was from Stephenie Meyer. It was crystal clear that this book was inspired by the Bourne series, so I was a little disappointed when she had to staple the names of the two Bourne Protagonists on the dedications page (in case anyone missed the connection). Props for dedications to fictional characters though, I’m a sucker for that. I remarked to a friend as I added it to my stack, “I just hope she doesn’t kill it with the romantic subplot again.” Spoiler: she did.
There’s a lot of things Stephenie Meyer does well in her books. She always makes you care about the characters regardless of the mediocrity of the actual prose. This book was no different. I cared about Alex (Juliana) and what happened to her from the beginning.
The pace in the book is excellent, it’s only dull when the romantic subplot gets in it’s own way. Romance in a thriller novel is not unexpected and adds important intrigue. But the romance almost elicited an eye roll. It was cute and fun, but unbelievable. The romance was missing all the subtle complexities that make romantic relationships interesting. The guy says “I love you” after barely a few days together. It’s a weird dynamic in almost all the romance she writes–the characters have external drama that keeps them apart but they almost never have doubts or complex emotions about each other. That kind of romance is oversimplified and does no justice to her characters.
Overall, I liked this book. My criticisms are mostly related to the heavy-handedness of the themes. During a section near the end, she actually has a character state, ‘Jules, you never lost your humanity.’ This seemed superfluous. Meyer spends the entire book trying to convince the reader of this, so much so that, again, the potential complexities and subtleties of a book on this subject were almost lost.
I would recommend this book as a great, quick read for those afternoons when you want some entertainment but your brain doesn’t want to work that hard.