This one really caught me off guard -- it's far from perfect, but I found myself having a lot of fun while I read it. Things I liked:
- Benway managed to convince me that Maggie was an unusual teen. And, even though she was a spy and never spent time around other teenagers and was obviously quite academically gifted, she was never made out to be better or more mature than other teens; her voice was still very authentically teenager-y.
- The dialogue was witty and often had me grinning. It wasn't laugh-out-loud funny, but Maggie's voice was incredibly endearing. I also appreciated Roux's snarky attitude.
- The presence of Maggie's parents. With Maggie being a spy and all, it could have been very easy to write the parents off somehow, but Benway highlights them. I loved the complicated relationship between Maggie and her parents: their job as spies has forced Maggie to grow up more quickly, and her isolation from other teens has kind of exacerbated that, so they've come to this crossroads where they treat Maggie like an adult and put undue pressure on her at some times, while simultaneously trying to rein her in and keep her safe as if she were still a child at others. And even though it's kind of complicated, you can still feel the love between the three of them.
- I like that Jesse (the love interest) was initially made out to be some kind of lame Bad Boy, but once Maggie gets to know him and the layers are peeled off, he's really not. He doesn't even TRY to act like a Bad Boy; people just assume he is because he skips school and tried to shoplift a book. His character is still nothing to write home about, but I appreciated that Benway didn't try to make him out to be an Asshole With a Heart of Gold.
- Angelo was also super awesome. And points that there's no fuss about him being gay.
- I've seen some reviews that have complained about the lack of Spy Stuff. I, personally, liked the approach Benway took here. Maggie isn't some International Super Spy (well, she sort of is); she's just really, REALLY good at picking locks. So that's what she does, and it's pretty much ALL she does. She knows a few other things like hacking and forging as well. I liked that the Spy Stuff wasn't particularly superfluous or over the top. Though I can see why that would be disappointing for people who were expecting that sort of thing.Things I Didn't Like So Much:
- I wish The Collective had been more well-developed. I'm glad there wasn't some kind of info-dump explanation for it, but still.
- The romance between Maggie and Jesse. It was cute, but it evolved into "I love you"s and whatnot rather quickly.
- The story was rather predictable. I wasn't particularly invested in Maggie's mission, nor the mystery that eventually evolved from it; I was much more interested in the personal relationships between Maggie and her private school friends, and her parents.
So as you can see, there was a lot here I liked. Which surprised me because I thought this was going to be rather 'blah'. I was reading purely because it was written by Benway and I liked her debut Audrey, Wait!
(her sophomore book, not so much.) But the narrative voice and the characters really won me over.