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Monday, May 26, 2014

YA Review: Also Known As and Going Rogue by Robin Benway

Hey Addicts! DynoMoon here, I'm back with another review of a YA Spy series!
Which is more dangerous: being an international spy... or surviving high school?

Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world's premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it's three digits, why bother locking it at all?)

But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she's attending a private school with hundreds of "mean girl" wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school's elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat... all while trying not to blow her cover.

From the hilarious and poignant author of Audrey, Wait! comes a fast-paced caper that proves that even the world's greatest spies don't have a mission plan for love.

Also Known As was a book I actually listened to on Audible. I know some people may think that listening to Audio books ruin the reading experience and make it harder to dig into the stories, but that's not the case for me. I thought the audio book was actually really good and a totally cute spy adventure.

But then why did I only give it three stars? There were several reasons why it isn't one of my favorites in the YA Spy genre. But I want to start with the good first.

#1 Roux- She's only a secondary character but I love her so much! She's quick witted, funny and totally in desperate need of a friend like Maggie--aka the main character Maggie.
#2 Angelo- He is what I imagine a child of James Bond would have been like if he and Q had a genetically created a baby.
#3 The Parents- They were believable, for both being spy/thief, and they weren't blind or stupid like a lot of parents are in YA novels.

You'll notice I didn't list the main character, Maggie, in my top 3 favorite parts.

Sadly that's because I just could connect with her as much as I wanted to and that was largely because of three reasons: one, her innate ability to crack locks as a baby--I think the author says "before she could stand or walk" at some point in the back story-  and two, because she had a wealth of characters/info available to her that would've helped her along on her "mission", but she never used them! It frustrated me at several points. And along that same line, my third biggest problem was  I felt that the action/adventure didn't quite live up to the hype. It was there, and what little there was, was good, but I wanted more.

Another reason that I held back on giving a higher rating was because there was a few times when Maggie's "mission" just didn't make sense or I felt that the scenes were just not complete or thought through all the way. To be fair there was only 2 parts where this happened for me, but for those parts I had to go back and re listen to those parts-- three times-- on my audio book. So most people may not have the issue I did. That's one of the reasons I like listening to books, because I think you catch things that you might not actually reading it.

The other thing that held me back was the love interest: Jesse. While I give mad props to our author, Robin, for not writing the wham-bam-insta romance that is so popular in YA, I just felt that the romantic element wasn't strong enough for me. I get it, you're trying to keep it light--success--but I would've like at least 1 good hold-your-breath-butterflies-in-your-stomach moment for Maggie and Jesse. I know this is possible because I've seen it done in several other YA spy books and series I've read. Maybe Robin wanted to do it that way, and that's fine, it just wasn't my particular cup of tea.

When I finished Also Known As I didn't think there'd be a second one, the author wrapped things up nice and neat and I REALLY LIKE THAT!
But there is a second one and it's called Going Rogue--and guess what-- I listened to that one on Audible too. :)
 Being permanently based in a local New York City high school as an undercover operative has its moments, good and bad, for 16-year-old safe cracker Maggie Silver. 

Pros: More quality time with her former mark-turned-boyfriend Jesse Oliver and insanely cool best friend, Roux. 
Getting to spend quality time with her semi-retired and international spy honorary uncle, Angelo. 

Cons: High school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. 

But when Maggie's parents are falsely accused of stealing priceless gold coins, Maggie uses her safe cracking skills to try and clear their names. 

Too bad it only serves to put her and everyone she loves in danger. Maggie and her "new team" flee to Paris where they must come up with a plan to defeat their former allies.

Going Rogue Nice thing about the author writing a second book, thus making this a series, is that one or a few of my complaints about the first book are handled! Go Robin, that is fantastic as an author. Another great plus Going Rogue is that Roux got a much larger part and she got a love interest! Again, I like Roux's romance much more than Maggie and Jesse's but I will totally admit, Maggie and Jesse's relationship got a bump up in intensity, but only just. Now to hit the things I liked about this second book

#1 the action--I complained above that I was slightly disappointed with the action and thrilling intrigue of Also Known As--well Going Rogue made up for that in a major way! The action was non stop almost from the start and the scenes in Paris, the apartment in New York, the Museum scene in the last part of the book! WOW. Talk about a fun thrill ride.
#2 the romance-- while I will say again Jesse's and Maggie's romance still left a tiny bit to be desired for me, it was much better and Roux---whoa---LOVED that she got a guy who gets her!
#3 Angelo-- same as above--> who wouldn't love this possible genetically created child of James Bond and Q?

But, Going Rogue did only get 4 stars from me and that's because, again, there were a few scenes that I felt weren't complete and at points unbelievable. I also haven't mentioned the parents in the good bit, unfortunately that's because they kinda let me down in this book. They were still believable as characters and parents, but some of the things they let happen, that they let Maggie do, and didn't make any real effort to step in and say "you are being really stupid trying do these things" or make a real effort to protect Maggie and her friends annoyed me.

Good news those two things are the only two really big things that set me back on this book. I could mention the bad guy--how I think Robin could've done more with him and the corrupt organization-- but it fit with the story well enough so it only gets a brief mention.

Now, with the ending of Going Rogue I KNOW it has been set up to be turned into a full fledged series and I am very excited about that possibility.

Also Known As was a good book, Going Rogue was better, so following that progression I am hoping for big things from the next book---if I am right and the publisher ordered more books in this series! I sure hope they did!

Enjoy your reading Addicts! See you next time

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