Despite living a life of privilege, sixteen-year-old Emma Rothchild has known her share of tragedy. She lost her mother several years before, and more recently, her father. Determined to solve the mystery behind the mysterious plane crash that claimed her father’s life, she soon finds herself thrown into a life of danger and intrigue.
Recruited by the enigmatic Mrs. B into a clandestine organization known as The Authority, Emma is assigned to a team of highly-skilled, racially diverse teens called The Gems. She undergoes rigorous training in fighting skills, and voom, she’s off, hoping to uncover the circumstances behind her father’s death … but that is just the tip of a very nasty iceberg.
What I loved:
This story is extremely fast-paced, barely pausing for breath as Emma and her new friends hop continents several times. The action scenes are very well-realized, and the buildup of tension as the book progressed was admirable. Having grown up on James Bond movies and Charlie’s Angels, reading Spies Like Me made me harken back to those days when international espionage and taking down megalomaniacal bad guys seemed like an awesome career path.
However, the author never lets you forget that the main characters are teenage girls. Despite their varied (and impressive) skill sets, they have all the foibles girls that age typically have. There is plenty of lighthearted humor, usually in the rare moments between action scenes and plot devices that kept the story moving.
I suspect that this story was not meant to be taken terribly seriously, though, and the parallels to classic Bond films are evident, but then again, this book’s target demographic are probably too young to have seen those films anyway, so it’s all good.
What I didn’t love:
There were times when the dialogue, usually from the story’s villains, became a little OTT and cheesy. In addition, the fast pace of the book came at the expense of any real character development. The relationship between Emma and her teammates – Nadia, Olivia, and Miyuki (my favorite secondary character) – barely has time to develop, and we are told very little about their past lives beyond what you might find in a dossier. I hope that in future books in this series, the author gives these vital characters more depth.
My Final Verdict:
I’ve not read many YA espionage thrillers, but I’m fast becoming a fan. Spies Like Me is a fun, entertaining romp that will delight young readers who are fans of action thrillers. Emma is a strong enough character to carry the story, and readers (especially girls) will like her and want to keep turning pages.