City Spies by James Ponti
Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Summary from NetGalley:
Sara Martinez is a hacker. She recently broke into the New York City foster care system to expose her foster parents as cheats and lawbreakers. However, instead of being hailed as a hero, Sara finds herself facing years in a juvenile detention facility and banned from using computers for the same stretch of time. Enter Mother, a British spy who not only gets Sara released from jail but also offers her a chance to make a home for herself within a secret MI6 agency.
Operating out of a base in Scotland, the City Spies are five kids from various parts of the world. When they’re not attending the local boarding school, they’re honing their unique skills, such as sleight of hand, breaking and entering, observation, and explosives. All of these allow them to go places in the world of espionage where adults can’t.
Before she knows what she’s doing, Sarah is heading to Paris for an international youth summit, hacking into a rival school’s computer to prevent them from winning a million euros, dangling thirty feet off the side of a building, and trying to stop a villain…all while navigating the complex dynamics of her new team.
No one said saving the world was easy…
Arc provided by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing via Netgalley for an honest review.
This was such a treat of a story! I enjoyed the diversity of the characters and the plot which was such a nice mixture of adventure, friendship and finding your family. This will be a nice addition to the kids as spies genre and I am sure that many kids will enjoy spending time with the City Spies.
I loved how the book opened, with Sarah about to go to court and very worried about. Enter ‘Mother’ her new ‘lawyer’ who she decides to trust even when he totally starts to muck things up for her. I loved the energy and the banter between these two. Such a refreshing interaction between a troubled kid and an adult. Sara is also a delight, yes she broke the law, but it was for the right reasons. Also very impressive how she did it as well. Eventually Sarah changed her name to Brooklyn, just like the other kids who adopt names of the cities where they come from.
The other kids in this gang of spies are slowly introduced and we get the background story on many of them. Paris is the oldest and he is the one who can break into just about anywhere. Sydney is the explosives expert and Rio is the magician and the youngest. Kat (Katmandu) was perhaps my favorite after Sarah, she can see patterns in things that no other person sees and she is great at math. Sarah has a tough time making her way into this group that has been together for awhile, but she does so eventually. It is hard for the group to trust and and for her to learn to trust them, but by the end of the book, you can tell that they will become very good friends.
The two main adults, Mother and Monty, are the kids handlers/parents. They are a great set of adults, who really care about the kids and want to protect them as much as they can. We also get the back story on both of them, which made them more real and not just adults supervising in the background. Mother recruited them all and I loved hearing the stories on how he rescued them.
The story itself was pretty typical of this genre, bad guy wants to destroy and take over the world. But the execution of the plot was well done. There were just enough hints for kids to figure out what was going on before the gang does, but it wasn’t always obvious, so I am sure there will be kids who are totally surprised. The pacing was solid with just the right amount of action and down times. The banter between the kids was also good and really lead to some funny moments.
Overall a delightful read that will keep kids entertained. A lighter read compared to the some in this genre, but definitely one to add to your middle grader’s book pile.