Also Known AsFeatured
Maggie’s a spy born and raised. She’s an expert safe cracker and travels the world with her spy parents being a spy. At 16, she finally has her first solo mission and she is excited. Of course, her mission involves enrolling in high school and befriending the cute boy with a criminal record. Her goal: to befriend Jesse Oliver, gain access to his father’s house, and obtain the article that the dad was going to run about the spy organization Maggie belongs to.
The characters are great, and definitely where Robin Benway shines as an author. Everyone’s got a whole lot of personality, especially Roux, who might have been my personal favorite. Jesse Oliver is great too. While I do like Maggie, I think I would like her slightly more if she had truly loved Roux more than she seems to do. Also, Maggie’s parents are loving and involved in her life, so three cheers for that.
As mentioned, Jesse Oliver is a great love interest. His rep as a bad boy has been seriously overplayed, and he’s actually one of the sweetest YA boys I’ve read about and not remotely a badass. He treats Maggie right, and, if anything, he’s too kind and forgiving of her. Anyway, I’m just glad to have a romance with a nice boy.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I had some suspension of disbelief issues with the young girl being a spy thing, but I’m willing to set those aside for fun times. Robin Benway does a pretty good job narrating. She’s not the best narrator ever by any means, but I still think it’s cool that she read her own book. Plus, her true affection for the characters really does shine through. She’s not brilliant at voices, but it was still clear who was speaking.
The Final Verdict:
Robin Benway's Also Known As is a little bit silly but a lot fun. This is a perfect choice if you're in the mood for something light, fluffy, and totally adorable. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series.
I really liked the insights into Maggie’s safe-cracking ability. If you’re going to make me believe that this teenage girl really can crack almost any code, you better give me some proof, and, well, Benway did. She showed her intelligence in other ways throughout the novel, even though she definitely slipped up at times(as is understandable).
But even more than Maggie’s spy activities, I really loved the glimpse of this girl who has been anything but normal all along trying to be a normal teenager. She’s a fish out of water from the start, and it doesn’t take long for that to lead to some humorous moments but also some really poignant moments of friendship. I love that strong friendships have been components of both books I’ve read from Robin Benway. I also really liked seeing Maggie’s relationships with her parents in Also Known As. It’s unconventional, due to the nature of their work, but it’s a strong relationship and it’s nice to see parents be so involved in YA.
Jesse Oliver, the love interest, was smile-worthy as well. I loved seeing Maggie interact with a boy she has a potential interest in and trying to figure out HOW to navigate the world of romantic relationships, which is an area she’s had little experience in. Their interactions are sweet and sometimes awkward, but mostly adorable.
Even though there’s some spy activity in this book, it was mostly just a cute read. I think that might disappoint some people who want Also Known As to be a little more, but it was right what I wanted at the time. I read this one after finishing some quite lengthy and serious books, and getting to enjoy Maggie’s world for a little bit was highly enjoyable and amusing. I did have a few minor issues towards the end about how something happens and Maggie doesn’t try to inform her parents, which I think would have taken care of a lot of the problems, but I’ll let it slide since it worked out well in the end.
This was such a fun book! I had read somewhere that if you liked Ally Carter then you would like this - both books have spies and characters that are high school age. I just noticed that the covers are a little similar too. I love Ally Carter, so I picked this up. They are different in some ways, which they should be being two different authors. The jobs aren't done the same way and Carter tends to hide details so that you never know if something was part of the plan or not. Benway just lets the plan unfold, and there isn't exactly a set plan - there is a lot more spontaneity depending on the situation.
I really loved Maggie, Jesse, and Roux! They are each so different and have their own back stories. The author did a great job of letting the reader get to know them as the story plays out. They are such an interesting combination.
I could relate to Maggie and her parents. They are close and the situation is something they've never dealt with before. I thought both parties were so realistic. This is the second book that I've read this week that has a central strong family (Going Vintage was the other one). Right alongside Maggie's family you have Jesse's and Roux's that are both a little dysfunctional.
The conversations were great and there were several lol moments. I also loved Maggie's perspective during the party at Jesse's house. The romance was also fabulous, but didn't overtake the story. I loved Benway showing Maggie's hesitation with Jesse and how she didn't know how to handle things. Very sweet. Then there is a rather dramatic and serious ending that surprised me, but was very well done.
The only negative thing would be the language. There isn't a ton of it, but it is still somewhat consistent, although I'm sure realistic too.
Overall a very fun read! If you enjoy spy books with some romance and a family dynamic, and you don't mind the language, then I would definitely pick this up!
Content: There is some teenage drinking, innuendo, and language.
Maggie was an awesome lead character. She really popped off the pages. Maggie is extremely smart. She has been groomed to be a spy from birth. Very different from your average teen, but also the same in a lot of ways. With this new assignment making her assimilate into high school for the first time, we get to experience a lot of firsts with Maggie. we get to go with her as she goes to her first party, makes friends, her first kiss and more. The difference from other books is, she is doing all of this while being a spy.
I love how involved Maggie's family is. They're not off on some mission of their own, conveniently written out of the story. They are right there, having morning meetings with her, freaking out when she comes home late. It was great seeing such involved and caring parents. Also ADORED Angelo, the family friend who is Maggie's mentor. He's suave, and quirky, and just a great addition to the family dynamic.
My favorite character had to be Roux. She was hilarious, talked a mile a minute, had a swear jar with her doorman, was sorta sad but also awesome. She knew that she had screwed up big time in the past and was completely willing to admit that. She was willing to admit her mistakes and do things differently. I wish I could pull her out of the pages and make her my BFF.
As for the love story, it was almost sickeningly cute. Both Maggie and Jesse were innocent and adorable. Their dates were too cute for words. Their banter was hilarious. I loved them despite myself.
Also Known As was fast, fun, and pure entertainment. Robin Benway's humor shines through the pages loud and clear. I know that I am going to be bumping Audrey Wait up my TBR. If you like witty and entertaining writing, I recommended Also Known As to you!
The spy aspect of the story was neat. It didn't feel too over the top and I love that Maggie was all about just picking locks and didn't use a bunch of gadgets and whatnot. It felt way more believable than the the movies that involve lots of rappelling and acrobatics to avoid lasers. More believable = easier to stay in the story.
The romance is freaking adorable. I love that Jesse and Maggie have their awkward moments, but there's also an ease to their relationship. They make a natural (okay, so he was her assignment, but still) progression from friendly to more than friends, and play off each other well. Jesse is sweet an you can tell he really likes Maggie. He talks openly with her about personal things, but still acts goofy around her. He felt like one of the most realistic YA guys I've read in a while.
Roux and Maggie's relationship is pretty great too. I love that Benway managed to balance a boyfriend relationship and a best friend relationship. Roux and Maggie start off kind of weird since Maggie seems to think she's a bit of a witch and Roux's closed herself off from personal relationships, but they do a good job of helping each other grow. And Roux is fantastic. She's loud and obnoxious, but in a rather endearing way. She's like that one crazy friend we all have.
Angelo is straight-up awesome. I loved every single scene he was in. He's a great mentor to Maggie, and manages to be humorous in an elegant way. Plus, he's not intimidated by Roux which kind of says a lot.
If I had one gripe it would be the overuse of “gonna.” Okay, I totally get that it's what we say instead of “going to” most of the time, but Maggie said it every single time it came up. It really started to drive me insane. You can even ask Jacob, I had a little outburst while reading.
The Nutshell: Also Known As is a cute and quick read. There's some good spy action, but there's a lot of focus on Maggie and her relationships (parents, boyfriend, best friend, etc.) which I found really nice. If you want a cute romance, some action, and a good “realizing who you are” story then Also Known As is your story.
eARC received from Bloomsbury
Release Date: 2-26-2013
Reviewed by: Middle Sis Jenn
The Sisters Say: Witty and Hysterical
Spies. That’s all I needed to read before I was sold on this one. Plus, I’m always looking for new contemporary because I love them—even though they are really hit and miss with me. Also Known As was definitely a fun read albeit it, the story is completely unrealistic. (At least I think it is, but who knows, I’m not a spy.) Getting over the fact that the story seem sensationalized to me, I still found myself laughing at loud at the random humor that Robin so brilliantly added.
Robin’s writing definitely stole the show with this spy thriller. Maggie is a teenage safecracker who has always been a part of the spy world—a girl on the outside looking in at what the normal world does every day. And right away, she is intimidated, but that doesn’t bog her down. Instead, she straps on her trusty sarcasm and heads straight for the lion’s den. “Right off, I noticed that no one else was alone: students traveled in packs of two, three, or four through the halls, not moving out of the way for anyone else…Wild animals also traveled in packs, I realized. That was usually how they surrounded and devoured their prey.” ARC, Location 381-383 I love her sense of humor here, and Maggie’s blunt and clever thoughts just keep getting better and better.
I loved Maggie, but my favorite character, by far, was Roux. She’s this punk girl with a “stick it to the man” chip on her shoulder, and I loved every single, trashy word that leaped from her mouth. She was hilarious, and she had a way of turning the simplest of scenarios into something that will cause you to fall off the couch and roll around on the floor laughing. (Seriously). Need an example? “’Well, I think we can all agree bidets are weird,’ Roux announced as she strolled back into the room.’” ARC, Location 2433-2434 I mean, girls don’t talk about going to the toilet! So, when this came popping out of her mouth (in front of the cute guy nonetheless), I found myself laughing hysterically. Because, let’s face it, bidets are weird!
Despite the hilarious writing and great female characters, there were still times when the plot dragged. I found myself skipping over entire paragraphs to get to the good parts. In a spy thriller like this, I don’t need all the extra, gritty details. I need the bang of guns, the hiding in plain sight, and the occasional passion-filled kiss! I really didn’t get much of this, though, which is upsetting. The whole “spy” part of the story seemed to fall into the background as the relationship part of the story took center stage. I don’t have a problem with this really, but it would have been nice to hear a few guns ?
One other thing that threw me off (it didn’t bug me, it was just different) was how middle grade the romance and action were while the language was definitely YA to Mature YA. I mean, there were a whole lot of s-words, and a-words and what not, but very little of anything else that would show their age level. Take away the language, and you would have a middle grade book. I would have preferred a steamier romance to accompany the rest of the story.
Overall, this was definitely a fun read, and I am still reeling from the great humor that Robin put into her story. I will definitely be reading more by her in the future! If you are a fan of spy stories or fun, light-hearted contemporaries, then this is a book you definitely need to check out. Push through the slower parts and the unrealistic story and get to know the amazing and witty characters.