Thursday, October 19, 2017

Spy School Secret Service (Spy School #5)

34228282Gibbs, Stuart. Spy School Secret Service
October 10th 2017 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ben is activated for a mission-- Cyrus Hale feels that the president of the US is the target of an assassination attempt, and Ben is taken to the White House under the guise of being friends with the president's son, Jason Stern, with the assignment of locating the source. Things never go smoothly for Ben, and the Secret Service dogs go crazy over his coat, Jason is a jerk, and everyone in the entire complex looks like a possible SPYDER  agent. Eventually, Ben manages to thwart an attempt on the president's life, but makes himself Public Enemy #1 in the process. He manages to escape, and gets help from none other than Erica Hale as well as a surprise relation of hers, who is instrumental in helping Ben lay low while trying to figure things out. In order to uncover some of SPYDER's motivation and to clear himself, Ben must talk to Ashley Sparks, with whom he trained when undercover at the evil spy school. Ashley is being held in a secure government facility, and when Ben and Erica show up to talk to her, they find Zoe, Mike and Ben's other fellow students who have the same idea. When everyone is caught, how will Ben manage to convince Cyrus Hale that he is not aligned with SPYDER, and that the evil organization's plan was not to assassinate the president, but something more nefarious... and still a threat?

This series distinguishes itself from other spy stories by having a lot more humor. At first, this came across as a bit goofy, but as Ben's skills at deducing evil plots develop, the plots have become more serious. The double crossing and deviousness of operatives switching sides is wonderfully convoluted in ways that even Alex Rider would have trouble untangling. SPYDER emerges as a complex and difficult threat even when we only see a few of their agents, and even when those agents, like Murray Hill, seem mainly goofily incompetent. This is a clever and thought provoking way to portray the enemy.

The middle grade voice in this is excellent, and the characters engaging and fun. Ben knows that his own forte is deducing things: I adored the scene where he remains on the floor while Erica and Ashley take down other operatives because he is "pathetic at fighting" and they are definitely not. Even better is Mike's comment afterward that the girls are much cooler than the girls in regular middle school! The romantic triangle is amusing as well-- I love the idea that a teen boy thwarted in his affections would join an evil organization in order to get back at his rival! Erica and Ben have a decided connection, but since she's two years older, this is a huge complication which is realistically addressed.

Gibbs is brilliant at inserting necessary exposition of plot into chase scenes. Whether Ben is unraveling SPYDER's plans during a muddy obstacle course or while he is eluding bad guys crammed in a spare tire compartment in a mini van, this device works extremely well at allowing the reader to understand the plot while the story keeps moving briskly along.

While there is so much to love about Ben's adventures, my favorite part is the plethora of laugh-out-loud phrases and situations that jump out randomly at the reader like camouflaged operatives. When the words"pungent muskrat" or "zesty walrus" are thrown into a serious conversation, or we read about an operative using wood stain to blend in with paneling, it's an unexpected delight that encourages readers to keep devouring the pages in order to get to the next hidden bonbon of delectable humorous prose.

Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment