by James Ponti
Sara Martinez is a hacker. She recently broke into the New York City foster care system to expose her foster parents as cheats and lawbreakers. However, instead of being hailed as a hero, Sara finds herself facing years in a juvenile detention facility and banned from using computers for the same stretch of time. Enter Mother, a British spy who not only gets Sara released from jail but also offers her a chance to make a home for herself within a secret MI6 agency.
Operating out of a base in Scotland, the City Spies are five kids from various parts of the world. When they’re not attending the local boarding school, they’re honing their unique skills, such as sleight of hand, breaking and entering, observation, and explosives. All of these allow them to go places in the world of espionage where adults can’t.
Before she knows what she’s doing, Sara is heading to Paris for an international youth summit, hacking into a rival school’s computer to prevent them from winning a million euros, dangling thirty feet off the side of a building, and trying to stop a villain…all while navigating the complex dynamics of her new team.
No one said saving the world was easy…
City Spies is the first book in a MG adventure series focusing on a group of talented tween MI6 agents.
While I enjoy MG novels, I am not in the target audience age range, and that means that I sometimes struggle more with the suspension of disbelief that they require. So while it’s fun to read about a band of young spies, I do struggle to believe that a twelve-year-old could be one of the world’s greatest hackers.
That struggle with the suspension of disbelief made me struggle a little with the plot at times, but it didn’t ruin the book for me. It was still a quick, fun read. Ponti slipped in a couple of plot twists, but he foreshadowed them nicely.
Ponti did a nice job of giving each of the kids their own personality and keeping them distinct. I would have liked to learn more about a couple of the characters, but I think that will come in future novels, as each book in the series appears to focus on a different kid. Mother also seemed well-developed–though I dislike his codename. I also kept mixing Mother and Monty up at times because of the similarities in their names. Personally, I think Monty could have used more characterization and page time.
Something that bugged me was the overall negative portrayal of Brooklyn’s time in the foster care system. It feels like foster parents are almost always negligent in books. And while I realize that there are real foster parents like that, there are also good, loving foster parents. So I guess I would like to see the foster care system bashed less in books.
To wrap everything up, I think most of my issues with City Spies are because I’m not in the target audience. So I think younger readers will probably really enjoy this one.
Cautions: brief, non-graphic violence; two British swear words