Remember how much I loved Robin Benway’s Audrey, Wait? Well I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy of Also Known As. There seem to be lots of spy and international intrigue books on the market right now, both in middle grade and YA, ranging from high-octane thrillers like Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon to fun friendship stories like ally Carter’s The Gallagher Girls books. This one falls more on the fun end of the spectrum.
At sixteen, Maggie is a professional spy. Her superior safe-cracking skills have proved useful in more than one international intrigue. Maggie enjoys her life of globe-trotting and adrenalin- fueled raids. That is until her parents sign her up for a mission that requires her to go undercover in a high school in New York City. Maggie has never been to school before and is not used to dealing with people her own age. She feels completely out of her depth- especially when the mark turns out to be handsome and witty.
This is excellent fun. Maggie is a funny and proactive heroine. It is endearing to watch her try to navigate the social minefield of high school. Her wry observations convey her intelligence but also her naivete, which is a compelling combination.
I love a good sidekick (remember Victoria in Audrey, Wait? Best friend perfection!) and Roux is a treat. Basically abandoned in a slick apartment by her wealthy but totally useless parents, Roux is the epitome of the poor little rich girl. I like how Benway gives her a past as a powerful meangirl who has fallen and never regained her position. There are hints of that mean girl in some of her actions but I did truly believe that Roux was remorseful and lonely and willing to do what it takes to be a good friend. Like go on spy missions.
The boy is perhaps a bit too good to be true, but I’m hoping there is a second book, perhaps in which the boy proves to be less than perfect. Also Known As is grade A YA fun, a little bit Ally Carter, a little bit Kiki Strike, with some Maureen Johnson thrown in for good measure, and yet still with Benway’s unique voice and sense of play.
Also Known As is available in hard cover from Penguin Canada in February.