I received this book for free from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Doublecross: And Other Skills I Learned as a Superspy by Jackson Pierce
Published by Bloomsbury on July 14, 2015
Genres: Action, Comedy, Middle-Grade
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Everyone in twelve-year-old Hale’s family is a spy, going way back. They’ve all worked for the Sub Rosa Society, a top secret organization where new agents aren’t recruited; they’re born. His parents may be the ultimate spy team at SRS, but Hale isn’t a typical stealthy spy—he is, as his mother puts it “big-boned,” and as some classmates put it, “fat.” Still, he’s convinced he will someday be a great field agent. After all, it’s his legacy. But when both his mother and father go missing on a secret mission—likely captured by the SRS’s number one enemy—it’s Hale’s time to step up and (with a little help from his acrobat-cheerleader little sister) save the day.
OKAY, THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST ADORABLE AND FUNNIEST SPY-KIDS NOVEL I HAVE EVER READ.
Sorry for the all-caps, but seriously, I never thought a premise involving elite spy kids… or, err… pseudo-elite spy kids… would be in the same sentence as “cute” and “adorable”. In less than 3 hours, I finished from A-Z and I was like, “I NEED MORE SPY KIDS IN MY LIFE.”
Heroes don’t always look like heroes, and villains don’t always look like villains.
I had to work out who was who. I had to work out the truth.
Meet Hale Jordan – the son of two of the most elite spies of the SRS and the brother of a possible spy prodigy – a young soon-to-be-and-still-in-training spy who could not be anymore “unfit” for the role. He’s fat, he doesn’t move as fast, and nobody ever takes him seriously but he’s witty, clever, has a lot of street smarts, can speak Russian, can lie to your face (or can lie to himself to believe he’s someone else), and a brave kid who sneaks into the lair of his network’s greatest nemesis just to find his mom and dad.
And, oh, he’s fricking hilarious.
I was laughing my ass off every now and then and I was just so engrossed in the novel. The writing, while not absolutely spectacular as in like the narrative we see in more mature books, has a very endearing quality to it. Hale is such a charming and funny hero – he never wallows in self-pity, he brushes off all the bullying he gets about his appearance, he even makes fun of himself at times to lighten up the mood, and is just plain awesome. He makes the slogan “brain over brawn” ever more true as he continuously uses his wits to improvise when things go wrong, and it’s so fun to see him go through all kinds of situations, because his narrative just makes it all so refreshing.
You may be thinking now, “But, Faye, aren’t you going to nitpick? Hello, how could it ever be feasible for there to be an elite spy organization that uses… twelve year olds?!?!” And yes, yes, yes, that question is quite valid, but there are times that a book just… works. You know what I mean? There are books that make it hard to take it seriously, and there are books like this that make such premises feel natural. Even the dialogue didn’t sound contrived! And that’s a feat because some action-y middle grade books don’t make it feel as genuine.
And didn’t you see me say it has a hilarious hero with equally hilarious kid friends, one who is named Ben who keeps inventing silly stuff and naming it after him?! —> ex: JellyBEN, BENchwarmer, HellBENder, BENoculars… among other things…
Seriously speaking now, this book was a hilarious and fantastic debut to what
could will be an awesome spy series. I love that it ends an arc while leaving still so much room for bigger and even more dangerous missions in the future. I love that while it has action and adventure and even conspiracies that affect people on a global scale, it still centers on family, friendship and sibling love. If I had a young one, I would read this alongside with them, because it is that enjoyable.
4 Hot Espressos