Title: Also Known As
Author: Robin Benway
Rating: ★★★ ~ ★★★★★
Synopsis: Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.
Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.
Also Known As is a surprisingly cute read. It’s a difficult book to categorize because I feel like there will be those who get completely sucked into the world and story, and others like me will read it and simply say “yeah, I liked it.” AKA is not a bad book, far from it! But it failed to capture my attention in a lot of ways.
Maggie, our spunky heroine, is kind of a nut case. She’s paranoid, frantic, flaily, and bit too all over the place for my tastes. She has moments where her narrative voice is so perfectly neurotic, that it’s actually very entertaining. What I didn’t care for, however, was the spy aspect of her personality. Not only was she terrible (and openly admits it), but it almost felt like at times that the author would have to constantly remind the reader of this fact, yet spending a good chunk of the narrative being like “So this is Jesse, my crush” which I get, but it gets drilled a bit too much for my taste.
I actually found Jesse to be a problematic love interest in that he never felt real or fleshed out enough. He has his moments where he’s cute (yes, we get told a lot that he is cute), a bit cheeky, but overall he’s kind of an airhead. He just felt so flat and unengaging that I couldn’t bring myself to care about him or the relationship he strikes with Maggie. Yes they are both super awkward, but their awkwardness never felt genuine to me (Maggie yes, Jesse no). It was hard to care about their relationship, which for me is a shame because I really did like Maggie a lot. Their relationship also happened way too fast for me! I just didn’t buy it.
I was also not fond of how Benway handled Maggie’s parents. A lot of the time they didn’t feel like actual parents. A lot of the decisions they made in the story were so unrealistic, especially when you add the spy element on top of it. They just felt so unnecessary at times. Heck, Angelo seemed like more of a parental figure than Maggie’s folks (and I loved me some Angelo).
When the plot wasn’t fixated on the romance between Maggie and Jesse, it was a ball to read. A lot of Maggie’s social awkwardness is perfectly woven into the story and her narrative voice for the most part is so infectious that it’s easy to laugh with her. Also I LOVED Roux’s character and the developing friendship between her and Maggie. I love how frustrating and grueling it starts out, to how eventually they just learn to love each other. I also adored Angelo’s character, and I felt like he was the best representation of someone doing espionage work. Angelo was so quirky, and learning about his past relationship, it made me a touch misty eyed!
Also Known As can be a perfect read for some, but for me, I found some of the unrealistic aspects a bit too hard to ignore. Still, I think Maggie’s voice is wonderfully done, and I think the narrative is still mostly solid minus a few issues. There’s still a lot of fun to be had in AKA, and I’d say it’s worth reading for Roux and Angelo’s character’s alone!
I loved this book SO MUCH and while I was a bit sad that Sam didn’t love it as much as I did, I can understand her reasons and agree with them even. But I forgave this book for A LOT because I loved Maggie’s voice SO. MUCH. It is VERY rare when I like the female protagonist (I talked about this in my review of SMART GIRLS) and Maggie… she’s like, my favorite protag EVER now. She was funny and sassy and just SO SIXTEEN and she was awkward and cute and I LOVED HER.
I love ANYTHING CIA or spies so this was perfect for me. I didn’t care how realistic and just enjoyed the hell out of it. I loved all of the characters, Roux was the BEST BEST FRIEND EVER and Jesse was cute and I loved his dog and just. SO MUCH LOVE.
So yeah… if you’re willing to forgive and ignore a lot of what bugged Sam in her review, then you’ll probably be more like me and fall head-over-heals for this book. But if those things bother you, then it might not be the book for you. BUT TRUST ME IT IS SO MUCH FUN.
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