25 June 2013, Hyperion
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Max has an unfortunate habit of setting fire to things, but maintains that he did not burn down his last foster home. Doesn't matter; his track record lands him at the Merry Sunshine Orphanage under the care of Hantai Annie. While there, he gets a coded message that indicates the father he never met is still alive, and further investigation reveals that he is involved in spying. Making friends with Wyatt while learning lock picking and other spy skills at the orphanage, Max tries to get more information, and is sent to Mr. Plato, who turns out to be one one Max's first foster fathers. It turns out that the evil LOTUS has found the school and kidnapped some of the students so that the organization can get its hands on an invention that the orphanage is trying to hind. Max is sent next to find Tully, who says that Max's father has been kidnapped by LOTUS. When Max gets assigned to an elite group of students to thwart this evil organization and break by breaking into their headquarters, he's excited because he thinks it will help him find his father. But will Max double cross the school? Will someone else double cross him? And even if he finds his father, will it be worth it?
Strengths: Fans of the N.E.R.D.S., H.I.V.E., S.T.O.R.M., and Evil Genius series will like this, with its action, spy training, and ensemble cast. Of especial note-- Max is half Thai, Hantai Annie is Chinese, and many of the children are described as being of various ethnicities. Charlotte's Library is always looking for multicultural fantasies, and this one certainly qualifies.
Weaknesses: There are so many series like this that it didn't feel fresh. Also, Hantai Annie talks in pidgin English even though she is described as speaking seven languages-- there was something about her portrayal that felt very dated and not culturally aware. This is also a very British book, with lots of words students might not understand.
What? Your computer doesn't look like the 1977 Tandy TRS-80? You don't even remember this computer that hooked up to your television? You weren't even born then?
***Waving cane.*** Get off my yard, young whippersnappers!