Sunday, August 14, 2016


Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts. She’s the author of several novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Stokes loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She also loves interacting with readers.

Stokes applied the Page 69 Test to Vicarious and reported the following:
From page 69:
My hands curl themselves into fists, my fingernails cutting crescent moon gashes into my palms. I am still trying to wake up from this nightmare.

“It’s not your fault,” Gideon repeats.

I look accusingly at him. “It is my fault, and yours. I should have been with her, but you—how could you let this happen? You let Rose freelance and it wasn’t safe and now she’s dead.” This is not how I’m supposed to speak to Gideon, but I can’t help it. The words spray out of my mouth like bullets.

“We don’t know if this is related to her freelancing.” Gideon lowers his head. “But you’re right. I should have taken better care of her. I should’ve protected her. I failed you both.” His voice cracks and he turns away from me. He walks to the far corner of the room. And then I hear the sobs, deep and racking.

I was expecting him to deflect responsibility, to tell me it wasn’t my fault or his, to pin the blame completely on a pair of nameless assailants, or perhaps to say my sister’s wild temperament is what killed her. This outpouring of pain and guilt surprises me.

Gideon sets the glass of water on the floor and sits next to me on the ViSE chair, his head buried in his hands. “Oh, Ha Neul. I keep thinking about what I could’ve done differently.”

He hasn’t called me by my real name in years, but we live artificial lives and spend our days creating artificial scenarios. I understand why he needs for something in this moment to feel real.
This is almost the entire text from page 69, and I included it because Vicarious is an intricate mystery, with complicated character relationships and several interweaving plot threads. Here we see main character Winter and her guardian/employer Gideon reacting to the news that Rose (Winter’s sister and Gideon’s ex-girlfriend) has been murdered.

I think this page is a good representation of the novel, because it deals with the aftermath of the murder, which is the main storyline. We get clues about what happened—Rose was freelancing and was apparently killed by two people. We can see the relationship between Winter and Gideon, how Winter has expectations for him and how he feels as if he has failed her. Both of these characters are obviously traumatized, and that pain with lead them down different paths for the rest of the story.

Winter, Gideon, and Rose are all Korean, and I think this page hints at their ethnicity and culture with things like Gideon calling Winter Ha Neul and Winter admitting that she is speaking inappropriately to an elder. Finally, the last couple of sentences refer to their jobs making Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Winter and Rose engage in adventurous or provocative activities wearing special headsets that record their sensory neural impulses. Gideon then sells the ViSEs to clients who can’t or are afraid to engage in the activities themselves. The ViSE recordings are a huge part of the novel and integral to solving the mystery of who killed Rose.
Learn more about the book and author at Paula Stokes's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Art of Lainey.

The Page 69 Test: Girl Against the Universe.

--Marshal Zeringue