Sunday 13 September 2015

#CBR7 Book 88: "Also Known As" by Robin Benway

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Margaret "Maggie" Silver learned to pick her first lock when she was barely past the toddler stage, which is unsurprising since both her parents and all their friends are spies. Maggie's father can tell her she's grounded in more than twenty languages, but she's never actually gone to school and rarely interacted with someone her own age. So when the Silver's current mission requires her to go to a fancy prep school in Manhattan, Maggie is actually more out of her depth than when her family had to flee Luxembourg in a hurry.  Now she has to wear a uniform and make friends, armed only on the knowledge she's acquired from countless books and TV shows.

Maggie's job is to get close to Jesse Oliver, whose father is about to publish a tell all article where Maggie's parents, Maggie herself and many they care about may have their true identities revealed. As this would be disastrous, time is of the essence. While Maggie might have twelve different passports and there is barely a lock or a safe she can't break into, she clearly has no idea how to talk to kids her own age. She's never been able to have real friends, as her family are constantly on the move, nor has she ever even thought about a life that doesn't involve deception and being a spy. She's a fish out of water in high school, struggling to fit in. Initially, she believes her target to be spoiled and arrogant, but as she gets closer to him, she has real trouble keeping herself detached and objective. Lying to her friends feels wrong, and the longer she works the case, the longer her instincts tell her that something is seriously up with the mission. But can a teenage girl tell her professional spy parents that she thinks they're being set up?

The fact that this is Maggie's first proper mission, where her parents have to take the back seat, actually just being her parents, is one of the things that creates tension in the book. It's clear that Maggie has a real gift when it comes to lock-picking and safe-cracking, but because of the life she's led, she's never actually been presented with or even considered any options to life as a spy. Only when Maggie actually has to explain her unusual upbringing (without revealing any specific details, naturally) to her new friends, does she realise how truly strange her life has been.

This was a fun book, with a fun protagonist. Roux, the girl she befriends at school, a former queen bee whose now ostracised because she slept with a friend's boyfriend and consequently lost her lofty position, is great. Wounded, sarcastic and initially quite self-centred, Roux provides Maggie with invaluable help in fitting into high school, even if she'll never exactly be popular hinging out with Roux. Jesse Oliver, whose file suggests he's a spoiled and attention-seeking rich kid, is actually bright, funny, vulnerable, as well as cute as heck, and it's perfectly believable that Maggie falls for him hard. While Maggie feels like a complete spaz every time she's near him, he seems to find her quite mysterious and intimidating. Their first date is absolutely adorable.

This book was perfectly fun entertainment and I liked Maggie, her friends, her parents and especially Angelo, the family friend who may or may not be an assassin. Teenage spy has to fit into high school seems like a great premise for a CW show, frankly, which I think I would actually watch. There's at least one more book in this series and I will be checking it out too.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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