Book Review: Simulated

by Nova McBee

What do you do when your life suddenly becomes … normal?

That’s the question Jo Rivers is initially faced with at the beginning of Simulated. The story picks up a few months after Calculated ended, and Jo is back home in Seattle. And she doesn’t know what to do.

Her math gift is still gone. And her dad is keeping an incredibly close eye on Jo, not wanting to lose her again. Sure, Jo is still able to help out at Prodigy Stealth Solutions (PSS), but that isn’t the cure for her restlessness. After defeating Madame and King and saving the world from an economic crash, how can Jo go back to being a normal teenager?

Though, life isn’t completely normal for Jo. Aside from Jo helping out at PSS, PSS is also trying to help Jo get her gift back by putting her through various simulations to try and trigger her gift. However, the simulations haven’t really helped bring Jo’s gift back–except for when a mysterious hacker breaks into Jo’s simulations.

Four weeks after the first time the hacker breaks into Jo’s simulations, she gets a call from the hacker, with a warning about Kai and a command to choose Tunisia. Shortly after, Kai goes missing and a file containing dangerous PSS inventions is stolen. And PSS has a job offer in Tunisia. Jo knows that Kai’s disappearance, the stolen file, and the hacker are all connected. With a team of her PSS friends, Jo heads to Tunisia. Once she’s in Tunisia though, Jo is forced to trust the mysterious hacker, who seems to be the only way to rescue Kai and the stolen intelligence.

I was privileged to get an ARC of Calculated last year and loved it. So I was so excited to get to read an ARC of Simulated.

Simulated has a different feel than Calculated. While Calculated feels a little bit more… gritty for lack of a better word since it is dealing with the Underground, trafficking, etc., Simulated feels more like a spy movie. We’ve got a team of geniuses with super cool technology at their disposal. But the different feel isn’t a bad thing. It’s just different.

I loved the bits of backstory that Nova wove into the story via Jo’s Stage One simulations. Not only does it make Jo’s character more developed, it is also super important to various aspects of the plot.

The plot.

First off, I just want to say one thing: Foreshadowing.

Nova does a great job of foreshadowing things that are revealed later on in the novel. She even began some of the foreshadowing for Simulated back in Calculated. And she does it very subtle and very skilled. I honestly wouldn’t have picked up on the foreshadowing in Calculated if I hadn’t reread it before diving straight into Simulated.

And while the foreshadowing is subtle, as it should be, it isn’t too subtle. You can pick up on it. I actually picked up on some of the foreshadowing and was able to guess two of the plot twists/reveals that happened. That was fun.

The plot of Simulated is paced really well. The story mainly takes place over the course of five days, but it doesn’t feel rushed at all. And the suspense and tension are maintained very well. I was sucked into the story.

Now onto the characters!

Confession: When I read Chelsea Bobulski’s endorsement for Simulated, I got really nervous about the love triangle. Love triangles can really bug me if they aren’t done well.

However, the love triangle is done well. And it also kind of makes sense.

Aside from Jo, nearly all of the characters in Simulated are new characters. However, Nova paces out the character introductions and does them well so that it isn’t overwhelming. And all of the new characters are great.

I was a little thrown off at first by Kai calling Jo “Trouble” as a nickname since he never does it in Calculated.

One of the things that I appreciated about Nova’s endings is the way that she structures them. She wraps up the plot of the novel so that it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but gives a hint about the next book. That hint creates a need to know what is going to happen next to Jo and her friends, while not leaving the reader on too torturous of a cliffhanger.

Simulated is a great addition to the Calculated series, and I am very excited to see what happens next in Activated.

Cautions: light/moderate romance; four kisses; brief references to trafficking; brief non-graphic violence

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