Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.
Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover. (from Amazon)
As soon as I saw the cover of Also Known As I knew two things:
1. I really wanted to read it and
2. It was probably going to be massively fun and adorable.
Later I found out that Robin Benway wrote Audrey, Wait! which I’ve heard very good things about but have yet to read. So I requested Also Known As on NetGalley and lo and behold! It WAS massively fun and completely adorable. I kept saying on Twitter and whatnot that it reminded me of Anna and the French Kiss with spies, and it DOES. It is! It’s lighthearted and fluffy and there’s some really good dialogue between the protagonist (Maggie) and her love interest.
Keep in mind that the point of Also Known As isn’t necessarily the spy stuff. The point is the romance/friendship/becoming a “real person” stuff. The spy stuff is important because it leads INTO the other stuff, but for most of the book it’s set aside until the third act.
For people who want lots of spy stuff, hardcore spy plots with intrigue and action/adventure, you may be disappointed. This is not Heist Society1 Maggie is a super safe-cracker but she’s kind of a terrible spy; all the good spy things she did happened in the past, off-screen. On-screen she’s so busy making friends and interacting with people outside of her family that she kinda sabatoges herself whenever she needs to do actual spying.
So this isn’t a “super spy falls in love with non-spy dude” kind of story. It’s a romance, but not a Romeo/Juliet one. Jesse? Is a WONDERFUL romantic hero! He’s not mysterious and he doesn’t brood, but he’s still interesting and cuddly and a good match for Maggie. Some of my favorite scenes were when they were together, because they had the best dialogue.
I found Jesse Oliver trying to get his Master Lock open. He would try, then bang it against the locker in anger, and try again. If this wasn’t a sign from the heavens, I didn’t know what was.
“Hi,” I said. “Do you need help or is this just an extreme sport?”
“I’m fine,” he muttered through clenched teeth. “This lock is just broken.”
“Want me to try?”
“Be my guest,” he said. “I hope you enjoy frustrating experiences.”
“Oh, I live for them,” I said, then starting spinning the dial around. (~page 43)
The only downside to Also Known As is, unfortunately, the ending. It was too serious for a non-serious book, first of all, and secondly, though it was trying to be action/thriller-y with bits of heart-rending betrayal, it was terribly flat. We never knew the bad guy, so the betrayal was ineffective. He gets a tiny chase scene and then dies off-screen. All in all, it was a terrible ending.
The rest of the book, though, is lots of fun! I won’t let a downer of an ending like that one ruin what was an otherwise lovely book. And I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for anything else Robin Benway writes.
Read: February 24-25, 2013
- which is a good thing, because I hated that book. ↩