Oh my gosh! I've waited since May to bring this incredible spy/thriller series to you, but since it was one of the BEST reads I had all year, I elected to wait to review it until my holiday review-a-day marathon in December. Squee. That's now!
This is THAT good. I mean it. I bought the first one. Yep. My jaw dropped when I recognized that rarest of rare writing styles in middle grade, third-person omniscient! I've been reading middle grade consistently for four years now, about 600 books worth, and this is the first time I've come across it, and it's done so incredibly well! English teachers, take note. If you need an example for the 7th /8th grade ELA standards in POV for 3rd omniscient, THIS is a fabulous example to stock on your classroom shelf. And for MG writers, this is an excellent mentor text in how to write 3rd omniscient for middle grade. I do hope to see more of this POV in MG in the future!
Book 1: City Spies
The book opens with Sara Martinez in an interview room in Kings County Family Court. She's been busted, arrested, yet again, this time for hacking the New York juvie justice system to expose her horrible new set of foster parents, and her public defender is urging her to accept a "generous" plea deal: 2 and half years, with no computer access. Unacceptable.
Until another "attorney" waltzes into the room, boots the PD to the curb, and takes on Sara's case. Except, he's not an attorney, at all. He's MI6, as in British spy agency, and he needs Sara to hack another computer system for an important mission. He has a couple of different aliases, but he wants Sara and the other kids spies to call him Mother.
Sara agrees to go with him to Scotland for spy training on the FARM, The Foundation for Atmospheric Research and Monitoring (cover for spy school), but with one caveat. On the way out of the US, Sara teaches her foster parents a thing or two (I won't say how). It's classic. And foreshadowing for what's to come.
Sara meets the rest of the teen team, each rescued by Mother (except Rio, who rescues Mother and actually starts the "school") and re-named after a city: Rio, Paris, Kat (Katmandu) and Sydney. Sara chooses her new name, Brooklyn, and figures out why she's needed: the previous hacker on the team, Charlotte, quit. Walked off and enrolled at Kinloch Abbey, a local, exclusive boarding school.
And will be competing with the school's team against the MI6 FARM team at the Global Youth Summit on the Environment in Paris. The MI6 mission: to protect Stavros Sinclair, rich techno-guru eccentric who's sponsoring the Stavros Challenge this year. Who wants him dead? Nefarious criminal network Umbra and the Purple Thumb.
Stavros is offering a million Euros to the winning team that solves one environmental problem. Brooklyn and team will have to place high enough to be next to Stavros and keep him safe, but far enough down the list of competitors that they don't shine an unnecessary light on their MI6 brilliance. I can't say any more, or I'll spoil it for you.
Just know, Charlotte's no match for Brooklyn, and even the real bad guys are left reeling in the end!
This was a fantastic, fast-paced, action adventure / thriller spy read and I highly recommend it!
Book 2: City Spies: Golden Gate
This time, the team is tracking Mother's kids -- his actual, biological family, two teens his ex-wife Clementine disappeared with when she was exposed as a double agent for Umbra years ago.
But first, it opens with an attempted hijacking of a ship, the Sylvia Earle, and attempted kidnapping of two teen girls -- members of the British royal family. Although 20+ times removed from inheriting the throne, they're still worth a lot in ransom.
Sydney picks that night to go on a solo dive to clear her mind, and Brooklyn manages to hide the two whiny royal girls somewhere in the bowels of the ship, where the kidnappers / hijackers don't think to look for them.
Together, the two teen spies thwart the attempt, and make two powerful, determined enemies -- the hijacker, Emil Blix, and unbeknownst to them, a deadly Umbra double-agent, Magpie.
The rescue of the ship generates a lot of media coverage, more like a feeding frenzy, and the FARM teen spies are caught on tape. Not terrible in and of itself, as they're undercover at school at Kinloch Abbey, but pay attention : this will come back to haunt them.
The rescue mission over, Mother enlists Brooklyn to help find clues in the photograph Clementine gave to Brooklyn at the end of the last book. But all it does is stir dissention among the ranks when Sydney and other team members quickly figure out Brooklyn's been picked for a "special mission." Rio feels like his special bond to Mother has been broken.
Mother has to explain Brooklyn hasn't, but he didn't want to involve them all on a "rogue," unauthorized mission. But all it takes is one glance at the photo for Kat to figure out where it's taken, and what the message from Clementine really means.
The kids are off to -- you guessed it, the title's sake -- San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
I won't reveal anything else, just know, again, this was a FANTASTIC, fast-paced, thriller of a ride and we enjoyed every word of it! And I was tickled pink to see Ponti kept writing in 3rd omniscient! (Squee!)
We highly recommend this duo for under the tree. Enjoy!