Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Action, twists, characters, laughs
Cons: All cons self-destructed
The Bottom Line:
Trip to Mexico
Plenty of twists and danger
Can't put it down fun
Spring Break in Mexico - Spy School Style
I never miss a Stuart Gibbs book. Yes, his target audience may be middle grade readers, but he has everything anyone would be looking for in a fun book. So I eagerly picked up Spy School Goes South, looking forward to seeing what Ben, Erica, and the rest of the gang are up to now.
If you've missed this series, Ben Ripley is our hero. He's a student at the Academy of Espionage, a school run by the CIA to train future spies. Now, you might think that this would be more training than actual field missions, but in Ben's case, he's been in the field quite a bit. That's because the evil organization SPYDER has tried to recruit him in the past, and when he's thwarted their evil plans, they've now made killing Ben a priority. Fortunately, he has the help of Erica Hale, a "legacy" since her family has been spies for generations going back to Nathan Hale.
As this book opens, Ben gets the surprise of his life when Murray Hill, a young SPYDER agent who has been captured, asks to talk to Ben. In the weeks he's been in custody, he hasn't said a word, but now he has agreed to lead Ben and Erica to SPYDER's newest secret headquarters. He's not willing to tell anyone where it is until everyone is in the plane. Seeing this as a chance to stop SPYDER once and for all, Ben reluctantly agrees to go along.
Of course, he's not sure he trusts Murray. His suspicion is proved accurate within a few hours, and Ben and his friends find themselves stranded in Mexico. Is SPYDER really nearby? Can Ben stop their newest plan? Or will they even make it back to civilization?
When you pick up a novel in the Spy School series, you know to hold on tight for a wild ride. This book is no exception to that rule. The action is non-stop as Ben and his friend face overwhelming odds. The twists and turns will keep you glued to the page until you reach the explosive climax.
That doesn't mean the characters suffer in the slightest. Those who have been following the series know that the exteriors we see at first hide deeper characters, and we get to see more of that here. There are some developments in the character's relationships in this book that will make fans of the series anxious to find out what happens to the characters next.
And there's plenty of humor. Yes, you can be gasping at the latest plot twist in one sentence and then laughing at the ridiculous situation one of the characters is facing in the next. I might have been laughing uncontrollably a couple of times while reading this book, in fact. I’m just glad I wasn’t in public at the time.
My only caution is that it is best to read this series in order to fully enjoy what happens here. There are plenty of references to past adventures as well. But considering how enjoyable this entire series is, that's something you'd do anyway once you read one of the books, so you might as well go back to the beginning anyway. And if this is the first book you read in the series, you’ll definitely still enjoy it.
If you or your child is already a fan of this great series, you'll love Spy School Goes South. And if you haven't discovered this series yet, you really need to fix that today. After you've read it, you can figure out which child in your life to give it to first.
Need more of Ben's adventures? Here are the Spy School novels in order.
This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.