Spy Goddess: Live and Let Shop

Spy Goddess

Author: Michael Spradlin

Publication: Avon Books, 2005

Pages: 271

Overall Rating: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]                        

Rating for Action: bth_2-star-rating-1_zps4cdc0d23[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_2-star-rating-1_zps4cdc0d23[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:  Rachel Buchanan is a spoiled Beverly Hills society girl with a serious attitude and a tendency to get in trouble.  When she and her friends steal a car to go joy riding, the judge gives her a stark choice – one month in juvenile detention or one year at the mysterious Blackthorn Academy.  Rachel doesn’t think much of her options, but the idea of juvie is just scary enough to push her towards Blackthorn.

The school and its enigmatic headmaster, Mr. Kim, turn her world upside down.  She has to take taekwondo and do way too much exercise, and the classes – code theory, microelectronics, language, world cultures, and criminal justice – are just plain weird.  Plus her roommate, Pilar, creeps her out – always giving her strange looks and talking in her sleep.  Rachel can’t wait to get out, but Blackthorn is a strange place and her inquisitive nature takes over.  Before long she stumbles across and impossible secret – Mr. Kim is running a secret school for spies out of Blackthorn.  When Mr. Kim goes missing, Rachel and her friends have no choice but to go after him, no matter how dangerous it gets.

Age of Main Character: 15

What I Liked the Most: Rachel has a great, snarky voice.  She’s witty and always fun to listen to.  Getting inside her head is like taking a trip with a totally cool, off the wall person – the kind of person I’m not sure I’d want to be, but who’s an awful lot of fun to hang out with.  In fact, as the title might suggest, the whole book is chock full of humor and witty one liners.  It makes for an entertaining and fast-paced read.

I also liked Mr. Kim.  He’s mysterious and struck me as the perfect combination of headmaster for a secret spy school and über cool uncle.  He seemed to know everything that was going and to always have just the right response to make things better – as well being a grand master of taekwondo and having all kinds of amazing spy skills.

What I Liked the Least: While you do get pretty deep into Rachel’s character, many of the supporting characters are very thinly drawn.  Rachel’s co-conspirators in the search for Mr. Kim – Pilar, Alex, and Brent – all felt weak and underdeveloped.  When it comes out fairly late in the book that Pilar has some sort of psychic second sight, I felt blindsided because I knew so little about her.  I suppose that’s sometimes a danger with first person books, but Spradling clearly needed to do something to develop his secondary characters.  Because fun as Rachel is to listen too, she can’t carry the entire book on her own.

It also felt a little too easy for Rachel to uncover all the school’s secrets and find Mr. Kim’s hidden underground base.  There are 300 kids at the school, many of them very bright and talented.  And simple as it was for Rachel to figure out the truth about Mr. Kim, it seems like some of the other students might have uncovered it before her– or that Mr. Kim would have gone to somewhat greater lengths to keep his secrets hidden.

***Spoiler Alert***  The villain of the story – or rather his goal and the reason behind what he’s doing – was a bit ridiculous.  I liked the concept of Blackthorn Academy, but didn’t think much of a villain who believes he’s the reincarnation of an ancient god and is trying to gather various ancient artifacts in order to re-establish his power and spread darkness over the earth.   And a revelation that comes in the last couple pages seemed far too coincidental even for a book like this.

How Good was the Action?  So-so.  This book is really more about fun attitude and Rachel’s search for the truth about Mr. Kim.  There is some action, but it doesn’t come until the end of the book and is far from intense.

How Engaging was the Story? The story is mostly carried by Rachel and her snarky voice.  It’s really about her and how her curiosity and refusal to back down lead to a series of discoveries about the true nature of Blackthorn Academy.  Her attitude is what drives the story forward, more than any character development or deep emotional story line.

Overall Assessment: This is a fun book, and as the title suggests it doesn’t take itself very seriously.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a satire of the spy novel, but the book is all about attitude.  Action and a coherent plot definitely take back seat to witty remarks and a playful attitude.  Don’t get me wrong – I am not slamming this book.  I’m just telling it like it is.  If you’re looking for a serious spy novel with lots of action and a truly evil villain then you’re looking in the wrong place, but if all you want is a light, fun read with lots of attitude then Spy Goddess might be just the book for you.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Minimal

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