Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.
Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case…all while trying not to blow her cover.
This book is a fun, light, bouncy read, but it doesn’t particularly leave a lasting impression.
So if you couldn’t already tell from that look-alike cover, this book definitely wants to belong to the Gallagher Girls club. This book too is a spy romp, it too stars a plucky teen spy-prodigy, and her latest assignment is her hardest yet – pretending to be a normal teenage girl. And while I do think Ally Carter fans are very likely to enjoy this story, this book is actually even lighter fare than the Gallagher Girls series, because while Also Known As has its fun spy moments, all in all it’s really more of a cute relationship drama. Family, best friend, and love interest all take up far more page time than any crazy spy shenanigans – so think less ALIAS, and more Robin Mellom’s Ditched.
Now when I call this book cute, I don’t mean that pejoratively, as in cutesy or saccharine – this book is much livelier and snarkier than that – but still, in terms of my impression-o-meter, cute it what I was left with. Which isn’t bad, per se, but it’s also kind of telling in that it was the sum total of my reaction: cute. That was it. Now don’t get me wrong, I did have fun reading this book – I enjoyed Benway’s sense of humor very much – but all in all, this really is just a mindless, escapist kind of read.
But that said, I do still have to say I thought the plotting overall was a bit floppy. I enjoyed Maggie’s escapades into normal teen life, but when it came to the larger reason she was in New York (i.e. to foil the Evil Plot), that side of the story ended up feeling kind of like an afterthought. The Evil Ploy is vague, to say the least – and the reason Maggie is the one who gets assigned the case stretches credulity to the snapping point – and the way it all tumbles together conveniently at the very end, to be wrapped up neatly with a bow, was a bit…well, painfully easy. So while I did very much enjoy the personality of this story, in terms of the spy stuff, well, I think a bit more plotting was in order.
But as I said above, this book is what it is – a cheerful, light-hearted teen relationship story – and as such, I had fun reading it. I mean, Roux (Maggie’s scene stealing best friend) alone is more than than reason enough to keep turning the pages – I just think this is the kind of book you have to be in the mood for. So if one day you find yourself hankering for a fun, light read, one you can enjoy with your brain switch set firmly to OFF, then this book most definitely fits the bill. Just know going in that it’s not going to be anything more than that.
Byrt Grade: B+
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
Sometimes I just want to read a book that isn’t too heavy and can serve as pure entertainment. I walk away from it having had a good time, but not really taking anything with me. Also Known As was that kind of book for me.
Now, I’m not even going to wonder why the Collective, a super secret spy organization, is putting an inexperienced spy in charge of saving everyone’s bacon. Instead, I allowed myself to get sucked into Maggie’s upbeat and very entertaining narrative.
The book is fast paced and fun, but…It’s supposed to be a spy thriller, right? I expected there to be more of that in the story. It’s a lot more about high school and romance and teen problems than it is about actual crime, safe cracking, and spying. If you are looking for a teenage James Bond, you will not find it in this book. There is VERY little of that.