Fighter, Faker, Student, Spy.
Seventeen-year-old Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she’s ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. Falling in love with the boy next door was never part of the plan.
Now Reagan has to decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she’s always wanted? And does she even have a choice at all?
Find out if you are ready to join the Black Angels in the captivating and emotional page-turner, You Don’t Know My Name, from debut novelist Kristen Orlando!
Thank you MacMillan and Swoonreads for the review copy!
Teenage angst, meet espionage plot and cardboard love interest. While You Don’t Know My Name sounds like the light and fluffy read as advertised by the blurb, it also tries to explore weighty and important themes with serious undertones. Unfortunately, it falls short on those aspects and instead made me a confused reader on how I would recommend this. Let’s get to the basics: I separate this book into pre-action and post-action. The former part is lackluster, predictable, repetitive, and led by character angst. The latter part is full of action, adventure, and things happening at once. It would have been nice to have seen a balance of these elements throughout the story but each part was heavy with its respective tone. I felt like the book did a 180-degree turn from “My life sucks and I like this boy” to “I must kill this man and fulfill my goal.” Like – what?!
In the beginning we get introduced to Reagan, who always switches lives because her parents live on the edge and work for the Black Angels, which is a secret agency that does these special missions for the government. They’re like the CIA I guess? But top-secret. Not sure, since the book doesn’t explore the organization too largely. Anyways, she’s sick and tired of being dragged from place to place, and she thinks she’s finally found a life in the new small town her family recently moved to. She has a great friend circle, a cute maybe-more-than-great-friend male, and is sick of pretending.
“Being their daughter makes me a target. I know their lives are dangerous. The work they do is dangerous. Their enemies would gun me down and kill me in broad daylight without giving it a second thought.”
I think everyone in this book looks like a model because the descriptions are heavily dosed with euphemisms on hair, eyes, or the gap between a girl’s teeth. Anyways, it was really hard for me to continue past page 30 because literally all that happens is Reagan complaining about her life. She’s tired of not having the choice of going into the Black Angels because everyone expects her to. Not to mention she’s so highly skilled that the agency is practically ready for her to attend their training. We get to read about a lot of “showing not telling” where Reagan explains about her Krav Maga skills and having to do all these fitness regimes every day. I had to really push myself past those 20 pages. But by page 100, things start to get rolling plot-wise.
“The path they’ve chosen for me is rammed down my throat at every opportunity. I’m not asking for much. I’d take even a flicker of concern over what I want for my future.”
The romance is actually really cliche and underdeveloped. There are some cute scenes between the characters but I never really felt like I knew Luke. Sure, he may have a pretty face and pretty words but why exactly did Reagan want to sacrifice her lifestyle to have a life with him? Please, insta-attraction is not the answer to that question. Pre-action book events was pretty much entirely focused on him and his hot mouth while post-action book literally ignored him while he quietly followed the events. It almost caused me whiplash because the focus totally changed!
“I shake out my arm, trying to crush the butterflies in my stomach. I never understood that phrase until I met Luke. I always thought it was eye-rollingly annoying way of saying you like someone. But the first time he touched me, I felt them.”
Post-action events get stimulated when Reagan’s parents come back from a failed mission and end up captured themselves. Reagan uses her versatile skills – such as knowing eight languages – to help out on the rescue mission. At this point of the book, she’s almost forgotten about her almost-boyfriend or friends that she so loved in the first part of the book. Maybe one good-bye is what one of her friends get. I think that if the author explored their relationship more, it would have been more heartfelt for the reader when Reagan leaves them. As for me, well, I didn’t particularly care.
The author also tries to explore anxiety and panic, which is what Reagan goes through in the first part of the book. I liked where she was going with that, but any traces of what was erased when Reagan goes on the rescue mission to save her parents. Her anxiety is forgotten (except maybe a brief mention in the beginning) as she puts her entire focus on the mission. I was supremely confused because so many loose threads were left hanging in regards to character development and romance, which were both put in the backseat in favor of the action and plot. Again, it would have been nice to have a balance of those aspects but instead readers are given too much or too little of both.
“‘I don’t like it when you pretend you’re someone you’re not. I just want you to be you. Good. Bad. Anxious. I’ll still be here.’”
The love interest Luke is coincidentally someone trained for the military so he just fits right in when confronted with the knowledge that the girl he’s trying to woo is trained to be a spy. I’m actually laughing right now on how he was ignored in post-action book when pre-action book he was the star of the show. Unfortunately, most of our interactions with him are from Reagan’s thoughts and I never found him to be particularly endearing nor relatable. There are like two specific moments where the characters are together for a while and most of it is Reagan being conflicted of her future.
“My entire life, I’ve followed their every order, forced on a million different masks, and I’m just so tired. I’m tired of feeling half dead.”
The short sentences and rather predictable plot make it a quick and easy read. There were also instances of awkward dialogue, but that’s just a personal thing. As a teenager the age of the characters, I just thought it was silly how they talked. It was rather juvenile, actually, and I think it’s something I would have liked this book more I were a few years younger. Nonetheless, You Don’t Know My Name brings back memories of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series, both of which were as fun as they were predictable. Maybe I’ll pick up the next book of this Black Angels series, if only to see how Reagan’s character turns out in the end. The extreme shift in the middle of the book made her a more tense and aggressive character which was rather interesting. However, it wasn’t interesting enough to make me stop laughing at the cardboard love interest with beautiful eyes.