Thursday, November 3, 2011

Spy School

Spy School by Stuart Gibbs--my most recent book review submitted to School Library Journal

grades 6-10

Ben Ripley, self described nerdy math genius, receives a mysterious summons to join the Spy School, a secret recruitment arm of the CIA. Since his life’s ambition is to become a spy, he is thrilled by the offer. But once at the school, Ben finds it to be a very different sort of place than any other.

His introduction and initial assessment upon arrival involves ninjas, flying bullets, and Erica, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. His first encounter with a fellow student is a request to hack into the computer mainframe because the rumor mill says Ben supposedly has great cryptography skills. Later that night another secret agent breaks into Ben’s room to kidnap him.

It turns out someone keeps leaking sensitive information and Ben’s recruitment to the spy school was set up as a ploy to find the leak in the CIA and the school. Using a cover story of cryptography makes him a perfect target for SPYDER, the organization of rogue double agents, who have infiltrated the school. Most of the adults at the school are so inept and clueless that Ben and Erica, working together with the help of their fellow students, find the mole and save the school from being destroyed by a giant bomb hidden in a secret passageway.

Twists and turns in the plot keep the reader guessing the identity of the mole until the very end. The story, over the top funny, combines Alex Rider’s espionage skills with a huge dose of the sarcasm of Artemis Fowl. Subtle digs at the stuffiness of a federal agency and the romance of spying abound throughout the story; at one point Ben is called a “Fleming—someone who comes here actually thinking he’s going to be James Bond.” Readers looking for a funny story, even if they aren’t fans of spy novels, will enjoy it. The book ends with a letter, fully redacted of all sensitive information, to the Director of Internal Investigations recommending Ben’s continued attendance at the school, leaving room for a sequel or two in the future.