Sunday, July 24, 2022

Spy School British Invasion

Spy School British Invasion
by Stuart Gibbs
Recommended Ages: 11+

As Ben Ripley's remarkable adventures as a CIA spook-in-training continues, he and his friends find themselves once again on a totally unsanctioned mission to save the world and bring down a secret, evil organization named SPYDER, that has turned a lot of their fellow agents to the dark side. Trusting nobody but themselves, and on the run from practically every law enforcement and intelligence agency in the West, they chase and are chased through a tourist's dream (and nightmare) of places to see in London and Paris – including the British Museum, the Tower Bridge and the Eiffel Tower on the one hand, and a subterranean sewer and a tunnel lined with skulls on the other.

Along the way, Ben walks a perilous tight rope (as it were) between two girls he's attracted to, both of whom are dangerous to cross. He saves his bestie, Mike, from a potty emergency by staging a breakout, under enemy fire, involving a laser pointer, a bra and a priceless Egyptian artifact. He breaks into the palatial home of one of the world's most reclusive hackers, only to find the guy lonely and desperate for company. They crash a double-decker bus, jump out of a Russian helicopter, race against time to stop a doomsday device, duke it out with bad guys, squirm as Erica Hale's parents bicker about the fact that her father (a very bad spy) hadn't known her mother was a very good spy the whole time they were married, and experience the truth of such Spy School precepts as Hogarth's Theory of Fear-Based Urination.

In short, it's action packed, hilarious fun with a bit of junior high romance woven in. It mines all the comedic possibilities out of spy caper stereotypes, including the kid-pleasing idea that the adults are cracked and only the kids know what's really going on. For all its silliness, there's an honesty about Ben's narration, a wholesomeness about his character, that makes him easy to root for – and meanwhile, Mike's point of view occasionally knocks us sidewise with his goofy observations, like how cool it is (for Ben) to be the face on the dartboard in a master villain's lair. The characters are quirky – in some cases, downright daffy – but with a dangerous edge that ensures, for example, you won't snicker when you find out about Erica's childhood game of pretending to be a princess (or rather, pretending to be a spy pretending to be a princess). And although SPYDER may be down to its last nefarious scheme in this installment, you can be sure some other evil orgnization will rush in to fill the void.

This is the seventh book in the "Spy School" series, following Spy School, Spy Camp, Evil Spy School, Spy Ski School, etc., and continuing (so far) with Spy School Revolution, Spy School at Sea and, scheduled for release in September 2022, Spy School Project X. Stuart Gibbs is also the author of the "Last Musketeer" and "Moon Base Alpha" trilogies, going on eight "FunJungle" books, the "Charlie Thorne" series (whose third book, Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra, just came out in June 2022) and Once Upon a Tim (which just came out in March and whose sequel, The Labyrinth of Doom, comes out in November 2022). Unlike some writers (eyebrow lifted), this guy doesn't seem to be running out of ideas.

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