Monday, June 7, 2021

Spy School Secret Service

Spy School Secret Service
by Stuart Gibbs
Recommended Ages: 12+

Cyrus Hale is the most accomplished spy 13-year-old Ben Ripley knows. For most of us, that wouldn't be saying much. But Ben goes to the CIA's Academy of Espionage, also known as spy school. And both Cyrus and Ben have learned in their past missions together that there aren't very many people they can trust, in an intelligence community riddled with moles and double agents. So when Cyrus picks up on chatter that the nefarious organization known, only to a few, as SPYDER is plotting against the President's life, he can think of no better way to deal with it than to plant Ben in the White House on the ruse of a "play date" (eurgh) with the First Son, Jason Stern.

Ben's first problem is that Jason Stern is a complete jerkwad, and the two boys fall in hate at first sight. His first visit to the White House goes downhill from there, with a slight misunderstanding about an unlocked bathroom door leading to Ben being tackled by Secret Service agents, held for questioning, then sent home with his tail between his legs. The second day goes off with a bang – which is to say, Ben realizes almost too late that he himself has been duped into assassinating the President, and only by blowing up the Oval Office (empty at the time) does he manage to thwart the attempt. But the Secret Service doesn't understand that. Pretty much everyone in law enforcement thinks Ben is a traitor, forcing him to go on the run.

The only way this young spy can come in from the cold involves figuring out who really planted that bomb in Ben's jacket and why. Because it turns out the President wasn't really the target; his death was only meant to hide the true motive for the crime. But it's hard to investigate when everyone's trying to capture you and put you away forever and ever. This leads Ben, and the very few friends who believe in his innocence, on a series of wild escapades, including a chase through the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, an insane break-in to a secret prison for evil spy kids, and a desperate, climactic caper in the hallways of the Pentagon.

The scenery is highly educational, showing readers a side of the White House, the Smithsonian and the Pentagon most people never see – you know, like, the inside. Ben's attitude about all of it is a big part of the fun, but his resourcefulness is amazing and the loyalties (and, in one case, disloyalty) of his circle of friends at spy school continue to confirm that this series has a very special young hero. It's an exciting, clever, funny adventure that will keep fans hooked for at least another go-round.

This is the fifth of nine "Spy School" adventures. Coming up next is Spy School Goes South.

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