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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Book Review: The Replaced by Kimberly Derting

The Replaced (The Taking #2) by Kimberly Derting
Genre: Young Adult (Science Fiction / Romance)
Date Published: April 28, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen

Romantic and action-packed, The Replaced is the gripping second installment in the Taking trilogy.

Kyra hasn't been the same since she returned from her mysterious five-year disappearance. Now, on the run from the NSA, Kyra is forced to hide out with others who, like her, have been Returned. Yet she is determined to find Tyler, the boy she loves who was also abducted—all because of her. When her group intercepts a message that Tyler might still be alive but is in the hands of a shadowy government organization that experiments on the Returned, Kyra knows it's a risk to go after him. What if it's a trap? And worse, what if the returned Tyler isn't the same boy she lost? 

Perfect for fans of The Fifth Wave and the Body Finder series, The Replaced is both chilling and explosive, with creepy, otherworldly elements and twisty, psychological thrills that will have you questioning what exactly it means to be human. 

The Replaced is the second book in The Returned Trilogy by Kimberly Derting. After enjoying the first book so much, I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, it fell into that second book syndrome category for me. It was a bit draggy, and I had a hard time staying focused on what was going on, because it seemed like not a whole lot was going on most of the time. I missed Tyler a lot. The things i I liked about him were nonexistent in this book. There's a love triangle forming. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet. Ultimately, I was disappointed, but I'm hoping for some bigger and better things in the next book, so yes, I will be reading it.

Day Twenty-Five
Silent Creek Camp

Or rather, like I was dying.

That’s the way I felt, watching the screen go all black like that. Like my lungs had gone from two functioning things that were pink and plump and filled with life, to shriveled-up hunks of useless meat that could no more pump air from them than I could sprout wings from my back and fly.

It had been seventeen days since I’d watched the guy I love be plucked from the ground by aliens and then vanish in a blaze of light. The same night I’d lost my dad in that very desert. And now the first actual hints of the two of them being out there had just flashed across the screen, right before the computer shut down.

That was the worst part of all this, that I still had no idea where my dad or Tyler were. That was the thing that was driving me utterly-madly-insanely crazy.

For the past seventeen days I’d been consumed by thoughts of them, convinced I might never see either of them alive, all while I’ve been trapped here, in the mountains of nowhere, Oregon, in a camp for the Returned—others like me, who’d once had normal-ordinary-regular lives, but who’d had the rug pulled out from under them the same way I had when I’d been taken. Abducted and experimented on by aliens. All because I’d had the dumb luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like them, I’d come back different. Changed.

And now people around me got hurt. Even my own mother had said as much—I was a danger to others.

I’d spent the past seventeen days living with the proof of just how deadly I’d become. I mean, how many normal girls had poisoned their own boyfriends simply by accidentally cutting themselves?

None. That’s how many.

I get how crazy it sounds, the whole idea of alien experiments, and I wouldn’t have believed it either if I hadn’t seen the proof with my own eyes—including the part where Tyler had almost died right in front of me.

If only I’d been one of those normal girls when I’d sliced my hand with that box cutter, then I’d never have needed to take Tyler to Devil’s Hole that night, hoping those same aliens who’d made my blood toxic to him in the first place would whisk him away, too, and undo the damage I’d done to him.

Maybe then Tyler would still be alive and safe, and my dad wouldn’t have gone missing the way he had, before I’d even had the chance—a real chance—to tell him how sorry I was for doubting him and his “crazy” abduction theories, and to tell him how much I’d missed him. Him, the dad he’d always been . . . always, even when I’d been missing for five years and he’d never, ever, not for a second, given up on me. Not even when everyone else had, including my boyfriend, Austin, my best friend, Cat, and my mom—whose betrayal hurt most of all because mothers shouldn’t ever stop believing their children are out there, somewhere, wanting to come back to them.

But my mom did. She gave up on both of us, me and my dad. She left us behind and started a new life, with a new husband and a new son—her new family. And I tried to forgive her, to understand her motivations, but I wasn’t sure I could, not entirely.

But none of that meant I didn’t love her, or that I didn’t miss her or even my new “brother” in the same way I sat here missing my dad.

They might not spend every minute of every day thinking about me, but that didn’t change the way I felt about each and every one of them.

Especially after seeing the message that had popped up on Jett’s screen . . . seventeen days after Tyler and Agent Truman . . . and my dad had just . . .


“Does someone want to explain what the hell just happened?” I was surprised I’d even been able to force the words from my mouth at all, considering those messed-up lungs of mine. I whipped around to face Jett, who was already leaning over my shoulder and punching frantically at the keyboard in front of me. He tried his best to boot the computer back up, but I could already tell there was no point. Everything we’d been looking at a moment earlier was just . . . gone, and now we were left staring at a big empty field of nothing.

He shook his head. “Someone shut us down,” he muttered, but he wasn’t talking to me now—his comment was directed at Simon. He lifted the computer from my lap and dropped it onto his own as he hunched over it, his fingers gliding in a way that made it look effortless while he got lost in a series of commands and functions I’d never understand. Jett handled a keyboard the way I handled a softball, like it was second nature. “They knew we were in their system and they locked us out.” He unconsciously rubbed his arm and I recognized the gesture. It was Jett’s tic whenever he mentioned the No-Suchers, as he called the NSA. Even though they hadn’t directly been responsible for branding him back in the day, when the government had begun covertly hunting for the Returned, and even though he’d healed from the firefly image they’d scalded into his skin—the way we all healed from our injuries—his hand instinctively stroked the spot.

“They,” I repeated. Of course it was them. We’d intercepted one of their classified emails right before that cryptic message had popped up, and somehow they’d caught on to us.

That dying sensation was back, rendering my lungs utterly ineffective, and even though I wanted to talk, the words were stuck so far down in my windpipe I practically had to cough them out. “But . . . he . . . he was right there,” I sputtered, and even that came out sounding like someone had just punched me in the throat. I pointed at the deceased computer Jett was furiously trying to revive.

Even though it had only been a single word, that message from my dad had flipped my entire world upside down. For a split second I’d actually allowed myself to believe this seventeen-day nightmare had finally come to an end. Now, with Jett’s computer struggling to come back to life, I had no idea if, or when, I’d ever see my dad again.

“Kyra,” Simon tried. “We’re not even sure it was him. It might have been them all along.”

“Yeah. Coulda been a trap,” Jett paused to interject.

I glanced down at the gibberish-looking commands that filled the screen, and felt a flare of hope when I saw that he at least had the thing rebooting. I held my breath, hoping against hope that the pop-up message we’d seen right before the whole computer had shut down might somehow—yes, miraculously, I get that—still be there after Jett was done working his magic.

But I knew better. It was gone for sure.

“Shut up,” I insisted to both of them. Then I sighed because I knew they’d never help me if I didn’t at least try to be nicer about it.

I hadn’t been all that nice to Simon since he and I had had to leave Devil’s Hole all by ourselves, without either Tyler or my dad. I’d avoided him whenever possible, even though I wasn’t sure if it was because I was ashamed of what I’d done by poisoning Tyler with my blood, or because I was mad Simon hadn’t warned me in time to stop it all from happening in the first place. The only thing that was clear was that I hadn’t wanted to talk to him about any of it. And even though I didn’t particularly want to be nice now, it wouldn’t do any good to alienate them when they were only trying to help. “You’re wrong, both of you. It had to be him.” I exhaled, scowling now because they’d seen the same thing I had, my nickname—Supernova—clear as day in that message. “Who else would call me that?”

Simon’s black brows met over the bridge of his narrow nose, and he was so close I could make out the golden-y flecks that seemed to float in his copper-colored eyes. “You know that was your dad’s online handle the entire five years you were missing.” It wasn’t a question, and he wasn’t wrong.

Supernova16. It had been plastered all over my dad’s crazy internet message boards for years. Anyone who wanted to could have sleuthed that mystery out on their own.

He held my gaze, and for a minute I thought he was waiting for me to back down, to admit there was at least a possibility I might be wrong, because there was always a possibility, wasn’t there? And when I didn’t—not so much as a blink, since there was no way I thought I was mistaken, not this time—his gaze dropped to the screen and he studied Jett’s impressive recovery of the laptop with just a little too much interest.

But it was too late because I’d already recognized the look in his eyes.


Simon hadn’t for one second believed it had been my dad who’d sent me that message. And now, because he knew I did, he felt sorry for me.

I stormed away from Simon and Jett, leaving them alone with their stupid computer . . . and all their stupid unwanted pity. I wasn’t sure why I was so pissed that neither of them came running after me, especially since I hadn’t really expected them to, but I still totally was. And since I was the heroine in this melodrama in my head, I could be as pissy as I wanted.

But even if they’d tried to stop me, I’d have been pissed about that too, so they couldn’t win for losing.

I was surprised to find Thom, the leader of the Silent Creek camp, waiting outside the temporary communication base, looking like he had something to say. But carrying on an actual conversation was the last thing I wanted to do, so I lowered my gaze and bulldozed past him, feeling only the slightest stab of guilt.

Mostly I was aware of how loudly I’d been muttering beneath my breath, and even as I kept moving, determined to make a quick getaway, I uncrossed my arms and tried to look a little less crazy, hoping that, at the very least, he hadn’t heard the foul things I’d been saying about Simon and Jett.

In Silent Creek, we didn’t have girl residences and boy residences. We had the Silent Creek campers’ residences—entire houses where Thom’s Returned dwelled, sometimes with roommates and sometimes being assigned the entire homes to themselves—and the two small rooms we’d been allotted when Simon had ushered us here after his camp had been disbanded. After the No-Suchers had discovered his hidden fortress at the abandoned Hanford site back in Washington.

But two rooms were all we needed. It’s not like we slept or anything, not really. It was just nice to have a place we could call our own, even if we had to bunk with our fellow Returned. Willow’s bed was directly across from mine, and even though I knew she didn’t like anyone touching her things, I nudged her storage container—one of those plastic bins—with the toe of my shoe, pushing it back beneath her bed.

Apparently, having a few minutes to myself didn’t just make me calmer, it made me bolder.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone for long.

When Simon finally found me, I was still sitting there, staring sullenly at the floor. I glanced at the bedside clock, and an uneasy jolt rippled through me as I realized that over an hour had passed—sixty-six whole minutes, to be exact—while I’d been sitting there, brooding over Simon and the lost message and all the reasons we were stuck here in the mountains of central Oregon in the first place.

“Kyra?” Simon stepped inside the doorway, and I felt my stomach drop when I heard the way he said my name, all patronizing, like I was too soft and needed coddling. As if he pitied me, and the very idea made me want to hit him all over again.

This whole situation was so hard to wrap my head around. Just twenty-five short days ago, my life had been so boringly normal. I was an ordinary small-town girl who wanted nothing more than to sneak behind the bleachers so I could make out with my boyfriend.

But the whole twenty-five-days thing was a lie—just smoke and mirrors used to disguise the fact that I’d been missing for five entire years. The truth was, that normal life of mine had vanished the instant I’d climbed out of my dad’s car in the middle of Chuckanut Drive and had been carried away on a flash of light.

It was the stuff bad sci-fi was made of: a girl, a flash of light, and a missing chunk of time. Yet it was all true. Ridiculously-appallingly-crazy but true.

And I’d seen it happen again with my own two eyes—one of those “takings”—the night Simon and I had dragged Tyler up to Devil’s Hole, hoping, because it was his very last chance in the world, that whoever they were would take him the way they had me.

And they had.

The fireflies had come, the way Jett had told me they would, as a precursor to the light. Except he’d made it sound like we’d see a small cloud of them, twinkling in the night sky to let us know we’d found the right place.

Instead, those fireflies had engulfed us, nearly choking me. And when they’d gone, it wasn’t just Tyler who was missing, it was my dad and Agent Truman too.

“I don’t wanna hear it wasn’t him,” I countered before Simon even had the chance to start in on me. “Who else would know my nickname?” It was the same argument I’d used before, and I hazarded a sideways glance when Simon sat down on the twin-sized bed right next to me, the mattress dipping heavily beneath him.

He sighed and sagged forward, balancing his elbows on his knees. His broad shoulder brushed against mine, and it was impossible not to notice the way he restrained himself for my benefit, like he wanted to tell me all the reasons I’d been wrong about the message being from my dad, reasons I knew, really, if I’d just stop being too stubborn to admit it.

Instead of saying any of those things, he scrubbed his hand over his dark, closely sheared hair and said, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it was your dad. But I’m not here to talk about that. If it was him, he’ll have to wait. At least for now. I want to talk about the other message. The NSA email.” He sighed again. “If it really means that much to you, I think we should go there, to the Tacoma facility. I think we should find out if it’s really Tyler they’re holding.” He faced me, his unusual eyes capturing my attention.

“I thought you said that’s the kind of place the Returned should avoid.” My voice was pinched and tight, but my chest—my lungs—filled fully for the first time as my heart crash-crash-crashed, making those crappy old windbags vibrate like crumbled parchment.

“True enough. But if it’s important to you . . . ,” he added, a smile slipping over his lips as he shrugged. “I just need to think. Come up with a plan . . .”

“You’d really do that for Tyler?” I bit my lip and lifted my eyes to his. “For me?”

“I know you don’t believe this, but I want you to be happy, Kyra.”

Regret over the way I’d behaved pricked me, and I had to stop myself from leaning into his arm, which was so much bigger than mine.

Then I grinned, because to borrow one of my dad’s expressions, even though I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth . . . come on. “And what else? I mean, besides getting Tyler back, what are you hoping to gain, exactly? I know you, Simon. You must think you can get something out of going there, or you wouldn’t risk it.”

I expected him to give me some cock-and-bull story about bringing me into his fold, or about teamwork, or . . . I don’t know, how it’s us against them—the Returned versus the No-Suchers. Instead, he answered candidly, “If we’re lucky, we’re hoping we can scrounge up some classified documents, maybe get our hands on some alien technology they’re hiding in there. Mostly, I wanna know more about these guys. What makes them tick. Figure out the chinks in their armor.”

“What if they don’t have any?” I asked.

Simon’s smile turned up full blast. “Everyone has ’em.”

In the end, it didn’t matter to me what his reasons were. I tried to tell myself not to get my hopes up, but it was almost impossible because I’d seen the email too. It might not have been from Tyler, but I’d already committed every word of the classified email to memory, and I was convinced it was about him:

“Washington State Patrol reported an unidentified male between the ages of 16 and 20 years old at a rest stop just south of Olympia, Washington. . . . Subject was carrying no identification and refused to reveal his name to officials. Subject is currently being held at the Tacoma facility for my inspection.”

But it wasn’t the content of the email, it was the signature line—from NSA Agent Truman, the very same agent who’d ambushed us that night at Devil’s Hole and then had disappeared himself—that had me convinced: the boy in question had to be Tyler.

We’d all been looking at that email right before my dad’s message had popped up, and to say that I’d hoped it was Tyler the NSA email referred to didn’t even begin to describe what I felt.

Because here’s the thing: if I could dream, it would be of him.


But dreaming was one of those things only afforded to those who could sleep. And since I no longer needed much—sleep, that is—it meant dreaming was pretty much a thing of the past. Like the horse and buggy, or phone booths, or floppy disks.

But I missed dreaming so, so, so much. I missed the way you could dream about something you’d seen on TV or overheard during that day, even if you barely remembered noticing it. Or the way dreams could be completely-utterly-totally random and have nothing to do with anything at all. Like this one time when I dreamed I was dragged onstage during a Wiggles concert, and it was so embarrassing because what was I even doing at a Wiggles concert in the first place?

And just like all those million fireflies that had been there that night at Devil’s Hole—appearing right before the flash of light, their sticky feet clinging to my skin and their wings tangling in my hair as they forced their way up my nose and invaded my ears and my mouth—that ache for Tyler crawled over me, making me itch and burn and want to scream for some sort of relief. Even seventeen days later, it was maddening. Exhausting. Every time the sun came up, I got this sharp ache in my gut like I was one day closer to something.

One day closer to missing him more maybe. Or to finding him possibly. Or to never seeing him again . . .

I didn’t know what it was, but it was like a knife twisting my insides each and every morning, and each morning it was worse. As if each passing day the knife turned a notch, tangling into my viscera, becoming so enmeshed it was almost a part of me, and if I couldn’t relieve it soon, it would eventually rip me apart.

All I could do was pray that finding Tyler would be the cure.

I was desperate to see him one more time. To touch him or taste the mint on his breath. Each night I prayed for sleep . . . just so maybe I could dream of him.

But even without the dreams, I still saw his face every time I closed my eyes, with every blink . . . blink . . . blink. It was like my own personal hell, torturing myself with what-ifs and what-could-have-beens. My dreams had been replaced by pacing and journaling and drawing, anything to find some way to extinguish my guilt.

I was haunted by what I’d done, and by all the unanswered questions: What really happened to Tyler the night he vanished? Where had he gone?

Had he even survived?

Except the thing was, if the NSA really did have Tyler, the way their email said that they did, then they’d had him for weeks, because Jett had given me the numbers—the Returned always came back within forty-eight hours.

Well, everyone but me, of course. I had to go and be all different.

March to the beat of your own drummer, my dad always said.

Simon reached over and gripped my knee. “I need you to do one thing for me.” He leaned closer so I could smell the peppermint on his breath. “I’ll do everything I can to help you with this, but I need you to keep quiet about it for now. At least until I can talk to Jett and Willow and figure this thing out.”

I nodded once, and he stood abruptly to go.

“Simon,” I said, stopping him. His hand was on the doorjamb as he raised a dark eyebrow and looked down at me. I suddenly wished I hadn’t been so hard on him all this time. “Thanks.” It didn’t seem like enough to say to someone who was about to risk so much for me and for Tyler, who he’d barely known at all, but it was all I had to offer him.

“If Tyler’s really there, we’re gonna find him, Kyra. I swear we’ll get him back.”

Have you read the first book?

Kimberly is the author of the award-winning THE BODY FINDER series, THE PLEDGE, and THE TAKING trilogies. She's also co-written the brand new picture book series, CECE LOVES SCIENCE!

Her books have been translated into 15 languages, and both THE BODY FINDER and THE PLEDGE were YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selections.

These days, she spends entirely too much time ordering stuff off the Internet and binge-watching Netflix with her husband and kids.

To learn more about Kimberly Derting and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebookInstagramPinterest, and Twitter.

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