City Spies (City Spies #1)

City Spies (City Spies #1)
Age Range
Release Date
March 10, 2020
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In this thrilling new series that Stuart Gibbs called “a must-read,” Edgar Award winner James Ponti brings together five kids from all over the world and transforms them into real-life spies—perfect for fans of Spy School and Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls.

Sara Martinez is a hacker. She recently broke into the New York City foster care system to expose her foster parents as cheats and lawbreakers. However, instead of being hailed as a hero, Sara finds herself facing years in a juvenile detention facility and banned from using computers for the same stretch of time. Enter Mother, a British spy who not only gets Sara released from jail but also offers her a chance to make a home for herself within a secret MI6 agency.

Operating out of a base in Scotland, the City Spies are five kids from various parts of the world. When they’re not attending the local boarding school, they’re honing their unique skills, such as sleight of hand, breaking and entering, observation, and explosives. All of these allow them to go places in the world of espionage where adults can’t.

Before she knows what she’s doing, Sara is heading to Paris for an international youth summit, hacking into a rival school’s computer to prevent them from winning a million euros, dangling thirty feet off the side of a building, and trying to stop a villain…all while navigating the complex dynamics of her new team.

No one said saving the world was easy…

Editor review

1 review
Excellent new spy series
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Sara is a hacker who managed to break into the foster care computer system to report her troublesome foster parents; of course, she is the one who got in trouble. When she is getting ready to appear in court, a dapper British man appears and says he is her new lawyer, and proceeds to get her cleared to go to a special school. She has her doubts about this man, but he has said to trust him, and once he helps her lock her foster parents out on the roof of their house looking for money so that she can retrieve her belongings from her room, she feels that he must have her best interests at heart. Soon, "Mother" (as he is known) is whisking her off to Scotland. There is a weather observation facility serving as a cover for a clandestine MI6 group of orphans from around the globe who all have special skills. Sara, who is now known as Brooklyn (since all of the children are known as the city from which they came), is replacing a girl who quit to help the local school group participate in a global environmental challenge. Brooklyn and the others (Paris, Sydney, Rio, and Kat(hmandu))are going to participate, but only so that they can make sure that the competition isn't attacked. There have been many instances of people being attacked by the Purple Thumb, and MI6 is employing every unit they can to solve the mystery before more agents die. First, of course, Brooklyn has to learn basic spy skills very quickly, and then has to prepare to enter the Stavros Challenge put forth by Stavros Sinclair and his company, Sinclair Scientifica and held during the Youth Summit for the Environment in Paris. One of Brooklyn's jobs is to learn to scale the outside of a building, get inside, and hack into the computer system. When the kids get to Paris and start their spy operation, however, they find that things are more complicated than they expected. They must rely on their skills, Paris' knowledge of the city, and the ever shifting stream of information in order to figure out and stop the forces of evil.
Good Points
Spy mysteries such as Horowitz's Alex Rider (2001), Benway's Also Known As (2013), Bradley's Double Vision (2012) Carter's Gallagher Girls (2005), Stuart Gibbs' various series, Monaghan's A Girl Named Digit (2012), and Muchamore's CHERUB are THE most popular type of book in my middle school library, hands down. Ponti's Framed series does well, but students are going to adore the action, adventure, traveling and environmental concerns of City Spies.

The fact that the children are all from different cultures, but are all of their own lends a new twist to this, and the travel that they do is fantastic. There's definitely a strong sense of "choosing one's own family", and the adults who take care of them are well drawn and supportive. Of course, they are all spies, so not everything is completely stable. What fun would that be?
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