Customers Also Bought
- ISBN-13: 9781442421820
- ISBN-10: 1442421827
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publish Date: March 2012
- Page Count: 290
- Reading Level: Ages 8-12
- Dimensions: 8.51 x 5.75 x 1.17 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.83 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-01-09
- Reviewer: Staff
In Gibbs’s (Belly Up) addition to the “child spy” genre, the CIA is (yet again) secretly recruiting kids, and Ben Ripley is the awkward 12-year-old brought into the academy, in this case under the pretense of attending a science-oriented boarding school in Virginia. The clichés (and plot holes) come as expected, from the ease with which Ben’s parents accept his leaving immediately for a school they’ve never visited, to Ben’s early struggles at the school and the presence of a traitor in the program. Depending on the dictates of the plot, the spies shift from hypercompetent (the CIA knows everything about Ben, including the extent of his hidden crush, and secretly inserts questions into standardized tests to assess children nationwide) to ineffectual (they are unable to identify a teenage mole or detect intruders). The supporting cast is occasionally interesting (school bully Chip makes a good early antagonist), but Gibbs doesn’t offer much in the way of originality to readers who have seen this plot before. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM. (Mar.)
A spy kid with a long way to go
It was a typical first day at a new school for Ben Ripley. First, he was dragged out of his house by a James Bond lookalike, and no one was allowed to know where he was going. Then he was shot at as he ran for his life up to the front door. Next, he was met by the most beautiful girl in the world, who saved his life at least twice and sent him to make a call from the emergency radio beacon. Finally, he backed his way into what was certainly a trap, and most likely his sudden death, only to be confronted by the principal of the school, telling Ben he had just scored a D-minus on his first test at Spy School. Wait, that’s not what your first day of school was like?
In Spy School, the new novel by Stuart Gibbs, Ben finds out quickly that this school will be nothing like the boring classes he has taken for most of his life. For example, at the CIA’s top secret Academy of Espionage, classes like Geometry and Social Studies are replaced with Introduction to Self-Preservation and Chemistry 102: Poisons and Explosives. Also, in a regular school, you don’t often find out you were admitted as an unqualified, and extremely expendable, decoy in order to draw out a mole in the operation. Ben really likes the change in coursework; he doesn’t much care for the fact that he was brought there to die!
Spy School pulls together the best of middle grade writing—action, adventure, awkward romance, plot twists and turns, and of course, unrelenting humor. Gibbs does an excellent job of never quite letting you figure out what is going to happen next, and keeping you on your toes. Ben is a perfect bumbling hero—never quite knowing what to do, but somehow getting things done. Perfect for fans of mysteries, humor or Harry Potter (it does take place in a special school for gifted students, after all), Spy School will keep young readers engrossed from cover to cover.