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My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
"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."
Imposter by Susanne Winnacker was very underwhelming and disappointing for me. I was initially drawn to the cover and blurb and I was highly anticipated for its release. At first glance it seemed that Imposter could do not wrong. Awesome abilities? Check. A murder mystery? Check. Action and suspense? Check. I really wanted to like this book. It started off on very strong foot and I was engrossed during the first chapter. In the first scene we immediately find the main character Tessa in a dire situation struggling for life:
“The straitjacket corseted my body so tightly my arms tingled and my fingers turned numb. I sank beneath the water’s surface, the weights on the jacket dragging me down. I gasped, and a spurt of liquid spilled into my mouth. Chlorine burned my eyes as I watched the distance between me and the surface growing. Blurry shapes moved above. They were watching me.”
Tessa had an ability or a “Variation” that allowed her to shape-shift into any human at will, provided that she touched them beforehand to assume their DNA. Housed with other teenagers with Variations into a secret government facility called the FEA, it was quite reminiscent of “X-Men”. Even though the first chapter was decent, I felt that I was reading a different book afterwards.
Besides the wonderful setup and beginning I really don't know what else to say here, except that I managed to read the whole thing and narrowly avoided a DNF. The book at least still kept me interested to find out the identity of the killer (although I found it to be very underwhelming from all that build up). The plot had so much potential. I loved the idea of a character assuming the identity of a victim to catch the killer and I was looking forward to a spine-chilling, suspenseful read. Sadly I was let down by the characters.
After that awesome beginning, I eventually disliked and even hated Tessa. A main character doesn't have to be likable of course, but I couldn’t engage or connect with her at all. She kept on swooning over Alec so often and I was sick of her endless thoughts about him. It was also convenient that his girlfriend Kate had to act like a bitch and ended up being a caricature that I couldn't take seriously. After receiving the mission Tessa was worried about how dangerous the mission was (fair enough) and that she might die before having her first kiss (wait, what?!).
Furthermore, she even impersonated Alec’s girlfriend just to try to get him to kiss her. I felt that part was unnecessary and absolutely cringe-worthy. I understood that she was only 16 years old but for heaven’s sake, would it kill to have slightly better priorities? As a reader who is only one year older and technically part of the intended target audience for YA fiction, I was constantly frustrated how Tessa's continual obsession - I mean romance - with Alec took up a lot of space in an already short novel. Their relationship felt very tacked on and undeveloped, even though they were meant to be friends since childhood. I didn't like how the descriptions of his physical appearance took precedence over almost everything else about him. I found Alec’s personality to be very one-dimensional and unappealing as he assumed the over-protective role over the heroine and kept demanding to be with her everywhere at all times.
Also, there was part when she had to train with Alec in self-defence after receiving the mission and I thought, really? You have to wait until a killer is loose before learning how to defend yourself? Weren't you meant to be trained for most of your life in a top secret government facility for these kind of dangerous missions? That section just felt contrived as if it was purely there for the sake for their relationship without furthering the plot. Also, the writing was very simplistic and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing on its own, it certainly didn’t help with the dull characters and plot. Ultimately I felt indifferent to the twist at the end and it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Overall, Imposter didn't live up to my expectations because it wasn't executed very well. Perhaps it’s just me being very cranky during exams as many other reviewers have had far more positive experiences. Perhaps I may try Winnacker's other books in the future as she does seem to have a knack of coming up with great ideas.