Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
Author: Stuart Gibbs Website
Published: 7 March 2013 (Hodder Children's Books)
Book Depository: Paperback
Source: Borrowed from library
Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Can a normal, average kid become a superstar secret agent? Maybe not, but it’ll be fun to watch him try!
Ben Ripley may only be in middle school, but he’s already pegged his dream job: C.I.A. or bust. Unfortunately for him, his personality doesn’t exactly scream “secret agent.” In fact, Ben is so awkward, he can barely get to school and back without a mishap. Because of his innate math skills, Ben isn't surprised when he is recruited for a magnet school with a focus on science—but he’s entirely shocked to discover that the school is actually a front for a junior C.I.A. academy. Could the C.I.A. really want him?
Actually, no. There’s been a case of mistaken identity—but that doesn’t stop Ben from trying to morph into a supercool undercover agent, the kind that always gets the girl. And through a series of hilarious misadventures, Ben realizes he might actually be a halfway decent spy…if he can survive all the attempts being made on his life!
I was standing in the queue for the checkout machine at the library when the cover of this book caught my eye from the "quick choice" shelf. "Spy School? That's sounds so cool!" - were pretty much my thoughts upon seeing it. I scanned tagline ("Can an undercover nerd become a superstar secret agent?") and read the first few pages and knew I had to take it out there and then. Spy School tells the story of thirteen year old Ben Ripley who arrives home one day to find a CIA agent sitting in his living room, who offers him a place at the CIA Academy of Espionage.
The book jumps straight into the action with Ben taking his place at the school. As soon as he arrives there's a massive shoot out which was a pretty awesome way to start! I was hooked on the whole spy thing straight away. The school itself is totally cool with hidden doors and secret below ground bunkers. Early on Ben meets Erica who's one of the most gifted students and she's pretty badass - not a word I use often. I loved the secret missions and tasks they had to do and the fact that Ben was completely out of his depth made it even more entertaining.
What was fantastic about this book was the writing and how it managed to get the humour absolutely nailed. I never really put quotes in my review but I wanted to give an example from this book that really got it spot on. "Although, in his defence, he's had a bit of a tortured past." "What happened to him?" I asked. "He was tortured", Erica said. I just love the little moments like that littered throughout the story. The writing was fantastic and the characters would have these brilliant quirks that made them hilarious. It meant I was always engaged in the story and able to enjoy every single bit of it.
There's some really strong characters in Spy School. Ben himself is pretty cool - a maths geek who finds himself totally out of his comfort zone when he ends up on the middle of "Operation Creeping Badger". Then there's the people he meets at school such as the previously mentioned Erica ('nuff said), his new friend Murray and older student Chip and his cronies. I really enjoyed his friendship with Mike who went to his old school. They're such typical boys trying to make each other jealous by making out they're closer to the prettiest girl in school which made me laugh.
There's definitely an element of Ben going on a bit of a journey and battling to prove himself which made you really root for him. He's the underdog being at a spy school and not having one bit of natural spy ability but when it comes down to it he's willing to give everything a go and adapt to his weird situation pretty well. And I like that he's clever and a bit of a geek!
I think the best bit of this book was that I went in not knowing anything about it and came out loving it and wanting to recommend it to everyone! Fans of the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter should definitely check this out. I loved reading a spy school story from a male perspective! It's a really nice light read as well because it's aimed at younger readers, but I think the writing style will appeal to everyone from middle-grade fans, to YA fans to people who rarely venture into younger age groups. Spy School has everything - action, adventure, friendship and all that school drama that comes with being thirteen. This is going to be a book I recommend to a lot of people in future so go and check it out now!
What to read next: Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs
Books like this: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime by Mark Haddon, I'd Tell You I Love You but then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer