Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book Review (OT): Spy School (junior high, spy school)

Spy School, by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster, 25.00$, 2012, 291 pp, ages 8-12 and adults)

Spy School is the first in a series of exciting books for both boys and girls, and adults. For boys because the hero is a boy. For girls because a girl always saves the day. For adults who want a quick very entertaining read.

The second book, Spy Camp, was reviewed earlier in DogEvals: read the review here.

The Adventure Begins

Spy School explains how our friend Ben is accepted into the super secret academy of spies, the Academy of Espionage, a fortress somewhere in the Washington, DC, area, behind impenetrable walls, guarded by “real” CIA agents – a spy school for kids from grades 7-12 (shades of Hogwarts, eh?). 

The time is mid-year, with snow on the ground. All the 300 students know each other, except the new kid, Ben, who fails his initiation test royally: nobody tells him it’s a test!

There are underground bunkers and miles of tunnels (and why is there a bomb in one?), but who is who? Who are the good guys? And who are the attendees at the conference called ”Who’s Who in Espionage?“

How would you like to study – and starting in Junior High to boot -  instead of English and Algebra and Geography and Biology, subjects like Psychological Warfare, Arms and Armaments, Information Acquisition (Interrogation), Self- Preservation, Self Defense, Enemy Subjugation and Apprehension, Cryptology, Cryptography, Counterespionage, Disguise, Chemistry 102: Poisons and Explosives (my Chem 102 was titled More Inorganic Chemistry), Chemistry 105: Constructing Weapons from Cleaning Supplies, Explosive Destruction and Defusion?

How would like two of your text books to be Peachin’s Field Guide to Bombs and Other Incendiary Devices and Driscoll’s User’s Guide to Southeast Asian Artillery?

Yes, the students even play war –paintball war – but they are graded on capturing the flag.

What is Pinwheel? Scorpio? Jackhammer? Jackrabbit? Klondike?

Who’s the mole? Who’s the bait? Who’s the patsy? Who’s codenamed Smokescreen? What is the nefarious SPYDER?

Sounds like an American Harry Potter?

What’s it like to have a junior high school crush on a girl two years older who smells of lilac and gunpowder?

Could our young hero Ben Ripley be another Gracie Allen – “. . . so clever he’s extremely good at appearing not clever at all”? Did he really foil an assassin with a tennis racket?

“Back in public school, if someone told you something like “Say one word about what you saw down there and you’re dead,” you could assume it was an exaggeration. At spy school, they actually taught you how to back those words up – and gave you the weapons to do it.” No wonder the CIA school does not tell the parents about the true identity (or location) of the school. [sic]

PS - Even the chapter titles are intriguing:
Bomb defusion

Highly Recommended

The Spy School series is an incredible set of plots starring nerds that even adults will be engrossed in. Each page is a surprise and the plot escalates towards the end of each book but, in retrospect, all makes sense and keeps you wanting the next installment. The reader will even learn a thing or two but as to the pragmaticality of what he learns – that is a different matter.

(This book is available at the Howard County, MD, public library.)

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