Sunday, July 24, 2022

Spy School Revolution

Spy School Revolution
by Stuart Gibbs
Recommended Ages: 11+

Ben Ripley, a second-year student at the CIA's Academy of Espionage, has gone on rogue missions before. But they've never been as rogue as this. Not only is the CIA after him, but even his most trusted friends don't believe him. It starts when Erica Hale, a slightly older student and his almost (but not quite) hopeless crush since Day 1 at spy school, makes an attempt on his life. With a rocket-propelled grenade. At CIA headquarters. The explosion destroys the room next door to where a couple of CIA agents are breaking the secret to Ben's parents that he hasn't, after all, been attending St. Smithen's Science Academy for the past year and a half, and now that his cover has been blown, they are no longer safe in their home.

The Ripleys' reaction to the news that they have to go into federal witness protection is the first instance in this book where I had to set it down for a bit, while I got my laughter under control. There were other instances, including passages that caused me to make a fool of myself in public when I had taken the book along on an all-day newspaper assignment, to pass the time between separate but connected events that I needed to photograph. (It was that or make two 26-mile round trips in one day to cover them.) I'm a bit worried that other people in the picnic shelter around me thought I was sobbing and wondered what had made me so upset; I was laughing that hard. But enough about me. There's a book to talk about.

So, Ben refuses to believe that Erica has really turned evil, despite the fact that she was obviously targeting him for death. Most of his friends don't have that kind of faith in the girl popularly known, around campus, as the Ice Queen. And it doesn't help that the closer he gets to a working theory of what's going on, the more it sounds like a cracked conspiracy theory. Almost no one else is ready to buy into Erica's claim that a secret, anti-American organization called the Croatoan, which has existed since the disappearance of the Roanoke colony in 1590, is really behind all the really bad things that have happened during U.S. history because – get this – they believe the continent rightfully belongs to Spain. The only evidence of it seems to be hidden somewhere among the effects of the nation's first president, and first spy master, George Washington.

Breaking into Washington's historic mansion, Mount Vernon, proves to be only one of many crazy things Ben finds himself doing among the landmarks of the Washington, D.C. area. There's a wild ride on a decrepit conveyor belt under the National Mall. There's a parachute drop out of a helicopter (ugh, again) onto a heavily secured rooftop. There's a leap over a cliff, followed by a boat-free trip down whitewater rapids. An explosion at a bowling alley. A fire at a middle school. More chases than you can shake the reins of George Washington's personal team of horses at. There are double-crosses by people Ben trusts, as well as (oops) an embarrassing moment when he falsely accuses the wrong CIA agent of being crooked. And there are moments that force Ben to reconsider who his real best friends are. Also, there's this quote, which was hard to choose out of several candidates:
Mike said, "Have you ever noticed that, wherever we go, we leave a trail of chaos and destruction?"

"Yes," I said. "That had occurred to me, too."

"It's awesome, isn't it?" Mike asked, grinning from ear to ear.
This is Book 8 in the "Spy School" series, smack between Spy School British Invasion and Spy School At Sea. A 10th book, Spy School Project X, is scheduled for release in September 2022. Besides this series tickling millions of youngsters' fancy of becoming a secret agent, Stuart Gibbs's other novels for middle school-aged kids include a series of mysteries set in a zoo/theme park, a trilogy about a present-day kid who time-travels to become one of the Three (or four) Musketeers, a mystery trilogy set on the moon, and a developing series about a medieval kid who wants to be a knight. Among the fellow writers mentioned in this book's acknowledgments are a few who you may also like if you enjoy this series, such as James Ponti, Michael Buckley, Chris Grabenstein and Sarah Mlynowski.

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