Sunday, June 6, 2021

Spy Ski School

Spy Ski School
by Stuart Gibbs
Recommended Ages: 11+

A super-rich Chinese businessman with ties to the underworld has come to Vail, Colorado for a week of skiing with his cute, but very sheltered, 13-year-old daughter. Naturally, the CIA thinks its best shot at finding out what Leo Shang is up to is to get Ben Ripley, a second-year student at the agency's Espionage Academy, to befriend her on the slopes. Luckily, skiing turns out to be the one sport that comes naturally to Ben. Unluckily, his better-looking, cool and charming buddy from middle school, Mike Brezinski, shows up in Vail that same week. Mike isn't supposed to know that Ben's science school is really a school for spies, and Jessica Shang's instant attraction to him threatens to mess up Ben's mission.

Luckily, fourth-year student and cloak-and-dagger genius Erica Hale is on the ski trip, too. While Erica turns on the flirt, trying to lure Mike away from Jessica, you can watch with evil glee as an avalanche of teenage jealousy threatens to bury Vale. Warren (the kid from spy school whose only good subject is camouflage) is jealous of Zoe, who likes Ben. Zoe is jealous because Ben likes Erica. Ben is jealous of the attention Erica is showing Mike – and so, by design, is Jessica Shang. It's even possible that Erica is a little jealous about the way Jessica looks at Ben. Though it's hard to tell with her – her school nickname is Ice Queen, after all. The whole adolescent romance vibe builds like a bomb fixing to go off, providing just the distraction needed to make it a surprise when things really start to explode. Only then do Ben and his friends – spy kids and otherwise – realize how explosive Shang's evil plan may be. And their race to stop it isn't just a test of survival for them, but maybe for the whole free world.

Once again, young Ben's top-secret adventures bring the whole range of rewards for readers in search of fun. It has terrific scenery, thrilling and (literally) chilling action and danger, intriguing mystery, and lots and lots of laughs. You'll meet a character named Dane Brammage and, rather than wonder how a smart author like Gibbs would think he could get away with something like that, you'll be amazed that it hasn't happened before. (Don't correct me if I'm wrong; I'm having fun here.) The bad guys are scary. The good guys are hilarious. And Ben has special qualities that will leave you in no doubt that he has a great career ahead of him.

This is the fourth of going on nine "Spy School" adventures. The next title in the series is Spy School Secret Service.

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