When a bruised and underweight Cammie wakes up in a convent in the Alps, she has not idea how she got there, but quickly finds out that her entire summer is gone-- and she can't remember it. She knows she ran away after Joe Solomon almost died, but doesn't know where she went or what she did. This is a problem, since the Circle of Cavan may or may not have taken her at some point and extracted information from her. Her mother and friends are glad to have her back, and Zach is now living at Gallagher Academy to keep him safe from his evil mother, but Cammie is having a hard time readjusting. She frequently blacks out due to her multiple head injuries, and occasionally shows some mad assassin skills that she didn't have previously! She and her friends try to figure out what happened, and whether or not the circle is still trying to kill her. Their research takes them to Italy, where it turns out Cammie made some startling discoveries. Can she follow all of the threads and get the answers that she needs... and still stay alive?
Strengths: Hard to write a review of this AWESOME book without giving too much away, but it was even better than the first four! The details of spying make me think that either the author is really good at research or has a background that she isn't telling us about. I love how supportive her friends are, how her mother and aunt are worried but not overly in her face, and how Zach doesn't doubt Cammie's abilities but checks up on her none the less. Also, the girl on the cover is not a stick. Hooray.
Weaknesses: Ms. Carter needs to take a tiny break from writing teen books and write one about a middle aged ,um, LIBRARIAN spy!
Gibbs, Stuart. Spy School.
Ben is surprised when he is recruited by the CIA to go to their Academy of Espionage, which is cleverly disguised as a geeky science academy because aside from some cryptography skills, he's not that smart. Turns out that he has been brought in as bait-- the word is put out that he invented a special code, and people start coming after him. The daughter of the man who recruited him, Erica, tells him that all is not as it seems at the school, and there is a mole that must be found. Of course, if Ben can find the mole, he might be able to stay in the school. There is a lot of personal peril-- bombs under the building, people kidnapping and drugging him... but Erica is always saving him. Is the mole a fellow student who just appears to be stupid? Is the principal as stupid as he looks? And what's up with Erica's father? Once Erica tries her own plan to flush out the mole (emailing from the principal's account that Ben has developed Jackhammer, a super code hacker program), will everything work out?
Strengths: Great cover, fun twist on standard spy stories, LOTS of action and adventure with bonus romance. Definitely will buy a copy of this.
Weaknesses: This is not quite as believable as Alex Rider or the Gallagher Girl books, since it walked right along the edge of Goofy. This will make it more popular with the under twelve crowd; I don't think it would do well in high school, whereas the other aforementioned works would.
Austin, Sean. Echo's Revenge.
Publication May 2012. ARC received from publisher.
Brothers Reggie and Jeremy escape from absent mother and her abusive boyfriend by playing online games, and Reggie is so good at "Echo's Revenge" that he gets a letter from the game maker inviting him to a focus group. He runs off, knowing the boyfriend doesn't want him to go, and meets a lot of the people he knows from the game. After the meeting, the company contact, Luca, gives Reggie a secret passwords and tells Reggie to contact him if he needs anything. Sure enough, when he gets home, Reggie is in trouble. He and Jeremy take off and try to head to their long-absent father's house. Not only are they picked up quickly for rides, but when they stop at convenience stores for food, they find that all of the gamers they know are on milk cartons as being missing kids! Something sinister is occurring, and sure enough, just as they reach their father's house, they are drugged, kidnapped, and taken to a secret mine where they end up working for Echo. How will they escape? What evil purpose does AAA Reality Games have? And will anyone ever believe their story?
Strengths: A lot of my students are interested in video games, and very few books include them. This not only has descriptions of the games (which must be interesting to someone-- Surly Teen Boy will watch YouTube videos of people playing video games, which I don't get at all!), but the boys get trapped in a situation that is essentially one big video game. Good action and adventure; STB read this one very quickly.
Weaknesses: A bit confusing for me, since I don't understand video games. Also, have a sneaking suspicion that this is self published; the publisher is supposedly AAA Reality Games, but going to that web site causes one to be redirected to echohunt.com. Not a bad book, but might be hard to find in a library copy.