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Review: Also Known As

March 8, 2013

Title: Also Known As
Author: Robin Benway
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Format: eGalley

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.

Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.—via Goodreads

I really wanted to love this book.

But it just didn’t happen.

I liked it—I liked it a good amount. I mean, I tend to like anything having to do with spies, especialy when they’re teenage spies. But for some reason this plot didn’t really compel me despite the fact that Maggie is a world-renowned safecracking prodigy whose skills are worth a lot of money. It sounds like exactly the kind of book that should be up my alley, but for some reason, this one fell a bit flat for me.

But! BUT! Let’s talk about the good: I adore Benway’s writing style. While reading I would find myself making notes of sentences like,

 “If Iceland was flatlining, then New York looked like it was having a heart attack.” (page 24) 

 “First rule of New York: Don’t just stand there. Keep moving. We don’t like it when you stand there. It make us angry.” (page 45)

Benway’s style is, as evidenced in the first quote, really gorgeously descriptive, and, also really funny. Okay, maybe I like that second quote because I live in New York and am of the belief that the sidewalk should be divided into a Tourist Lane and a New Yorker Lane.

Seriously, this is the best idea ever.

Aside from Benway’s great style and voice, the characters in this book are a lot of fun. Smart, lively, fittingly jaded and cycnical, Maggie, Jesse, and Roux are characters I want to hang out with. The problem is that once the story got past a particularly swoony stoop scene, it went into fast-forward—every storyline became rushed and went full speed ahead to the end. The nuance and subtley was put aside, and all of a sudden crimes, drama, and mysteries were solved and everything was hunky-dory.

Overall, I really enjoyed the characters. I just wish that Benway (or, I suspect, her editors) had taken some more time with the story so it could unfold more naturally. However, the book is fun, there’s a lot of action, and Benway’s writing is great. If you’re looking for a fun, NY-based spy adventure with quippy, funny dialogue, then Also Known As will fit the bill.

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