Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

Also Known As by Robin Benway. Walker Books, 2013. Currently Available.

Genre: Spy Novel/Thriller

Also Known AsFace Value: Aren’t we done with disembodied girls yet? Apparently not, and it’s a shame because I feel like there are a whole lot of really fun spy-related things that oculd have been done with this cover. Instead we have a knee-socked, short-skirted bottom half of a body. Meh.

Does it Break the Slate? It does! Although Maggie would probably find a sneakier way around getting through the slate. She’s incredibly competent despite (even because) she is a teenage girl, she’s smart and clever, and what’s more, she doesn’t let her romance get in the way of the work she has to do or her work get in the way of her potential romance. Yes the book is lighthearted and a little fluffy, but it’s totally Slatebreaking in its own right.

Who would we give it to? Do you need a good beach book? Because this would be  a great one. It’s light and fun and terrifically snarky, with enough substance to keep you reading all the way through. Anyone who liked Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series will love this one. Also I wouldn’t be surprised if it was turned into a show on the CW within the next 8 months.

Review: I could pretty much tell I would enjoy the tone of this book from the first paragraph.

“I cracked my first lock when I was three. I know that sounds like I’m bragging, but really, it wasn’t that hard. It was a Master Lock, the same combination lock that you probably have on your locker or bike. Anyone with Internet access and too much time on his or her hands can crack a Master Lock. I’m serious. Google it. I’ll wait.”

So yes, here we have a book about a teenage spy, Maggie Silver (that’s not her real last name, her spy parents named her Margaret because of all the nickname potential within), who is something of a prodigy in the Collective, a super secret spy industry who goes around the world stopping evil. Her parents are both Collective spies, so Maggie was born into this world. Luckily she has a talent for it. At sixteen, she gets her first solo assignment, and it involves going undercover at a wealthy high school in New York City, which turns out to be way more trouble than she had anticipated. That first paragraph gives you a sense of the book’s overall feel. A little silly, a lot confident and very clever.

Is it plausible? Not at all. But it is fun. Seriously fun, striking a surprisingly effective balance between the spy talk and the high school talk. But at the same time, it’s not all that memorable either. I only read this a week ago and I still had to go back through and skim to remind myself of the major plot points to write this review. But I absolutely enjoyed every minute of the read.

What I liked best though, more than the spy gadgets or the makeout scenes or the madcap capers, is the character of Roux, Maggie’s new best friend. Roux is a formerly popular and mean girl, who alienated pretty much everyone at the Harper School in the year before Maggie got there. Watching her negotiate friendship with Maggie, knowing what has been done to her and what she has done to others was really fascinating. It gave what could have been nothing more than a stereotypical sidekick character her own interesting arc, and it made the friendship (since Maggie doesn’t have tons of experience with friends her own age) a satisfyingly complex one.

Reviewed from library copy.

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One Response to Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

  1. I’ve been hearing great things about this one, but your review has me adding it to my TBR list! I love snarky, competent teenage spies! The writing (from that quote) seems super fun too.

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