All people of my generation remember Samantha Smith. It was such a bold idea – to write to Andropov and get a personal invitation to visit another country. I’m sure, a lot of parents encouraged their kids to do the same afterwards. You probably remember that a few years after Samantha and her parents tragically died in a plane crash.
You Are One of Them has at least 3 theories what could have happened. Jennifer Jones lives in Washington D.C. and goes to school, with her friend Sarah. Sarah is an intellectual ugly duckling, awkward and sad, Jenny is more simple, likable and outgoing. They are best friends forever and they both write letters to Yuri Andropov, but only one of the letters gets published. They slowly grow apart and then Jenny dies.
About 10 years later, in mid-1990-es Sarah receives an e-mail from Russia suggesting that Jenny and her parents did not die, they might have been Soviet spies, they defected to USSR. Sarah has always wanted to visit Moscow, and she still hasn’t forgiven her former friend, she decides to go and see for herself. What she sees is the “New Russia” – almost the same country I personally remember, just before we left. Sarah’s descriptions of Russians are so deep and revealing, I literally wanted to bookmark everything. This was the time, when everyone believed that Russia was changing, that people were opening up to new values, that transformation was well underway. As we see now – those changes weren’t internalized and did not last.
Sarah observes Moscow and does not quite know what to believe, everyone lies, everyone has a hidden agenda. The ending is not very conclusive, you can pick your own side and believe whatever you want (which is what usually happens, you never really know who lied and why, right?), but the most important thing is that Sarah is able to outgrow her teenage resentment, she comes to terms with what she is and knows what she wants to do next.
It is a spy story, but the descriptions of Russia are so brilliant – I could not put this book down!