Model Spy – The Specialists #1

The Specialists

Author: Shannon Greenland

Publication: Speak, 2007

Pages: 224

Overall Rating:  bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_15_zps345ebc9e[1]

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

Age Category: 9 – 12

Brief Summary: Kelly James is tricked into hacking her way into a secure government database.  When she’s caught, she thinks her life is over until she discovers that it was all an elaborate trap.  Kelly is an orphan and the government has been tracking her for years.  They want her for a new program known as The Specialists.  It’s a small group of highly skilled teenagers.  All of them are orphans, and all of them have run afoul of the law.  Now they work for Uncle Sam.  Kelly is one of their newest recruits, and before she knows it she’s being sent out on her first mission.  Her cover: a hot new international model.  Her goal: to steal an encoded microchip that will reveal the whereabouts of a kidnapped genius before the wrong people can use him to hack into the US government’s most secure computer systems.

Age of Main Character: 16

What I Liked the Most: Greenland got me right insides Kelly’s head.   By time the book was over I felt like I knew her inside and out, and I had a blast following her journey from self-conscious school girl to butt kicking spy.  This book is fun, pure and simple.  Greenland does a great job playing up the relationships among the various spies in training and showing us Kelly’s gushing excitement at all the cool new computer technology she’s allowed to use.

What I Liked the Least: This is a minor issue, but Greenland was a bit casual with some of the things that make using child spies unlikely.  The US government doesn’t have any equivalent to Britain’s Official Secrets Act.  If word ever got out that the government was recruiting young orphans to work as spies there would be a massive uproar.  Yet Kelly and her fellow agents go to a regular school.  She’s arrested by one government agency and taken out of lock-up by another one.  Overall, it just feels a bit loose, as if Greenland created the idea for a group of teenage Specialists without thinking about how exactly the government would keep such a program secret.

How Good was the Action?  Fairly poor.  This book is more about fun than action.  It’s about the relationships among the characters, the budding romance between Kelly and David, and the technology.  There’s a bit of action near the end when Kelly and the team steal the microchip and try to rescue the kidnapped genius.  But it’s not very good; certainly not heart pounding or memorable in any way.

How Engaging was the Story?   This is book is all about the characters and their relationships.  Right from the beginning I felt myself sucked into Kelly and her life and wanting to follow her on this fun, slightly manic ride.  Kelly is a weird, off-kilter girl with a lot of strange mannerisms and obsessions that make her plenty of fun, but Greenland ups the ante a bit by also making her a blond bombshell.  Taken together, Kelly makes for a fairly unforgettable character, and the book definitely left me looking forward to her future adventures.

Overall Assessment:  Like I said, this is a fun book.  It is not, however, heart pounding action/adventure.  If you’re looking for a story that’s got cool characters, humor, romance, and just a bit of adventure, then this is a fantastic read.  But if what you really want is plain old hard-boiled action, then it’s probably not the book for you.

Profanity: None

Sex: There is definitely some flirtation and a kiss or two.  But it’s all very mild.

Violence: Very little.  A couple of people get knocked out with sleeping darts, there’s a fist fight or two, and a brief potential for a torture scene that never happens.

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