Soft Skull. Mar. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9781593767075. $26. SUSPENSE
DEBUT Jessica Clink is many things: a depressed college dropout, a loner, a former child beauty pageant participant, and a deactivated top-secret agent in a clandestine government program called Project MONARCH. Raised by unconventional and, often neglectful, parents, Jessica relied on her (former) babysitter Christine as well as her first love Veronica for any sense of normalcy. Working in her part-time job at a photo lab, Jessica develops an alarming set of photos—graphic images of a dead young girl. These photos change something in Jessica, and she starts to remember her time as a MONARCH agent. Returning home, Christine lets her know that her mother is dead and her father is missing. With the police looking for her, Jessica is forced to flee, embarking on a one-woman crusade to figure out the truth behind her life.
VERDICT Readers seeking a sci-fi action romp will be disappointed. Wuehle mixes folklore, philosophy, and the occult in this examination of memory, feminism, self, and identity. Gen X readers will appreciate the cultural milestones and infamous celebrities of the 1990s featured throughout. A circular narrative and slow plotting, however, will limit the appeal to the most adventurous literary readers. For larger fiction collections.
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