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Middle School Monday – See How They Run by Ally Carter

MSMAlly Carter is one of my favorite authors for a number of reasons. She writes complex, dynamic female characters who are tested mentally, emotionally, and physically. Sometimes they fail, but they ultimately succeed and come out stronger, usually with the help of their friends. These are important themes for my middle school students to experience within the safe pages of a gripping story, and Carter delivers every time. Her latest installment in the Embassy Row series is no exception.

See How They Run follows closely on the heels of the first book in the series, All Fall Down. (I’m going to attempt to be non-spoilery in my description, but you may want to skip this review if you haven’t read the first book.) Grace is introduced by Mrs. Chancellor to the secret society formed by female descendants of the original Adrians. She finds, somewhat to her horror, that she will be sharing her introduction and training with Lila, the twin sister of her best friend, Noah, who is not overly fond of either of them. Her brother Jamie makes a surprise visit home from West Point because he is understandably worried about her (see the end of the first book.) He brings with him his good friend Spence, another West Point cadet with connections to Adria.

carterVery quickly into the novel, there is a murder and her good friend/crush/brother’s best friend Alexi is a suspect. As Grace and her friends go deeper into the mystery surrounding the murder, things only become more confusing and complex. Grace discovers, on her own and with her friends, more of the secrets of Adria’s past. Grace is certain that there is more going on than she can see, and she’s not wrong. In the tradition of the best written thrillers, Grace finds herself in a position where she is not sure who she can trust, both to tell her the truth and to keep her secrets.

I think my favorite part of this novel is Carter’s exploration of the effects of what can best be described as post traumatic stress on Grace’s mental stability and emotional health. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that the events in the first novel brought up a traumatic event from Grace’s earlier life and then added to it in spectacular fashion. Carter manages to dig deeper into Grace’s damaged psyche than one might reasonable expect within the pages of a gripping thriller, and she does so with compassion and insight. Many of my students are dealing with the effects of post traumatic stress either in their lives or the lives of those they love. Carter provides an age appropriate exploration of its effects on an extremely sympathetic main character that will leave readers with a better understanding of the devastation it causes and more empathy for those who have to deal with it. For students who aren’t yet ready for more mature explorations of the topic (such as Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory) this is an excellent choice. I highly recommend the inclusion of this series in any collection serving 7th through 10th grade students.

Tween Book Review: I’d Tell You That I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

This book is about a girl named Cammie Morgan. She goes to a school called the Gallagher Academy. I know your probably thinking so a school for stuck up snobs. Whoo hoo!?! But this is not a ordinary school. No this is a school for SPIES! (The school is only for girls.) Her teacher sends Cammie and her friends on a mission to get ready to be a spy. Like a full on cool spy. But while on the mission she meets a boy. Things change. She starts sneaking around, friends get fed up with covering for her. Will the boy find out she is a spy and goes to a spy school? Will her friends forgive? Find out in I’d Tell You I love You but Then I’d Have to Kill You.

This book is recommended for ages 10-16 year olds. This review is based on the opinion of Ceci, who really loves this series and thinks everyone should read it. This review is written by Ceci. 

See you next time, thanks.

Take 5: Spies Like Us

Ever since reading The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter, I am obsessed with spies.  In fact, since it is audio book month, I will share with you that I’d Tell You I’d Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You is the first audio book the Tween and I listened to in the car.  We both loved it and I liked that it was something we could listen to together.  Sometimes we sat in our driveway for a few extra minutes to finish a scene.  I highly recommend this series, the Tween has gone on to purchase them all.  I knew I liked that girl.  And then when you are spy obsessed like me, here are a few more spy stories that you might want to read.

Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance
Fields’ Rule #1: Don’t fall for the enemy.

“Berry Fields is not looking for a boyfriend. She’s busy trailing cheaters and liars in her job as a private investigator, collecting evidence of the affairs she’s sure all men commit. And thanks to a pepper spray incident during an eighth grade game of spin the bottle, the guys at her school are not exactly lining up to date her, either.

So when arrogant—and gorgeous—Tanner Halston rolls into town and calls her “nothing amazing,” it’s no loss for Berry. She’ll forget him in no time. She’s more concerned with the questions surfacing about her mother’s death.

But why does Tanner seem to pop up everywhere in her investigation, always getting in her way? Is he trying to stop her from discovering the truth, or protecting her from an unknown threat? And why can’t Berry remember to hate him when he looks into her eyes?

With a playful nod to Jane Austen, Spies and Prejudice will captivate readers as love and espionage collide.” – Goodreads

This book is being released June 11, 2013 by EgmontUSA.  I read a review copy and enjoyed it a lot.  It is fun, flirtatious and reminiscent of one of the best non Joss Whedon shows ever – Veronica Mars.  Definitely recommended.  3.5 out of 5 stars.
Also Known As by Robin Benway
“It requires a little precision. I’m safecracking a person. I gotta figure out the code before I’m in.”
“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.” – Goodreads

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
“There are some secrets worth killing for. And some deaths that are worth keeping secret.” – Maid of Secrets
“Seventeen-year-old Meg Fellowes is a wry, resourceful thief forced to join an elite group of female spies in Queen Elizabeth’s Court. There she must solve a murder, save the Crown, and resist the one thing that will become her greatest freedom–and her deadliest peril.

For Meg and her fellow spies are not alone in their pursuit of the murderer who stalks Windsor Castle.” – Goodreads

The Mysterous Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
“Would you ever have thought I might choose a lie for the sake of my own happiness? The Whisperer’s version of happiness is an illusion — it doesn’t take away your fears, it only lies about them, makes you temporarily believe you don’t have them. And I know it’s a lie, but what a powerful one! Maybe I’m not who I always thought myself to be. Maybe I’m the sort of person who will do anything to hear what I want to believe…” 
“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” ad attracts dozens for mind-bending tests readers may try. Only two boys and two girls succeed for a secret mission, undercover and underground into hidden tunnels. At the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, the only rule is – there are no rules.” – Goodreads
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
“Sophronia was minding her own business and running late to luncheon, as was her custom. She’d let to learn the advantage of punctuality. As she told Sister Mattie the third time she was late to household potions and poisons, nothing interesting happened until after an event commenced.”  – from Ettiquette and Espionage
“Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.” – Goodreads

See also, Booktalk This: Spy Stories

Share in the comments: What are your favorite spy reads?

Booktalk This! Spy stories

I’ve had spies on the mind this week, as one of my favorite books of last year, Code Name Verityby Elizabeth Wein, received a Printz Honor (an award recognizing excellence in teen literature). In Code Name Verity, a young female spy writes for her life, sharing secrets with her German torturers in France during World War II. She confesses codes and airbase locations, but makes her captors find those details in a story of a friendship between two women who never would have met if not for the war. Catch glimpses of a side of WWII you don’t hear about often – female pilots and spies, the regular citizens who risked their lives helping the French Resistance, awful torture methods used on prisoners of war – but stay for a heart-wrenching story of friendship.

What if you’d like a spy story, but could do without the history?  Try The Recruit, by Robert Muchamore (Mission 1 of the CHERUB series). An organization created because “Adults never suspect that children are spying on them,” CHERUB agents are all under seventeen, and now includes eleven-year-old James, who was recruited after his mother’s death. But is he ready for the intense training, and for his very first mission?
Like the history but want to go further back? How about 1850s London? Saved from execution for thieving and given a place in a school for girls, orphan Mary Quinn thinks she’s being groomed to be a teacher, but discovers, much to her delight, that she’s instead meant to be: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee.
Want to know more about that iconic spy, Bond, James Bond? Try SilverFin, the first of Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series, in which we find James Bond as a teenager at boarding school, not yet the confident master spy, but one who still manages to get caught up in mysterious and deadly adventures.

Is spy school your fondest wish? Read your way to the Gallagher Academy with Cammie Morgan, the heroine of Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You. Cammie’s mom is headmistress of the school, which pretends to be for geniuses but teaches its students code-breaking, covert operations, and martial arts…so, yeah. It’s a spy school. And it’s rad.

But what about the spies who have kids? In Jack Higgins’ and Justin Richards’ fast-paced Chance Twins series, beginning with Sure Fire, fifteen-year-old twins Rich and Jade are often drawn into their spy father’s thrilling and dangerous missions. How far would yougo to help the dad you’ve never known?
Does the phrase “spies disguised as cheerleaders” make you strangely curious? In Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Squad: Perfect Cover, computer hacker Toby is surprised to receive an invitation to a Spirit Squad meeting…and even more surprised to discover a secret message encoded in the invite. Could this squad of perfectly coiffed and manicured popular girls be hiding something?
And finally, maybe you’re interested in a spy story written by someone who really knows what he’s talking about. Traitor – in which seventeen-year-old soldier-in-training, Danny, must find and capture his grandfather (a spy-turned-traitor) in order to clear his own name – was co-written by Andy McNab and Robert Rigby. McNab has written several books about his own highly decorated experiences in the British military, but because of security reasons, he can’t be photographed face-on for his own author photo! Cool, huh?

Want to do some fun CSI/Spy related activities? Check out this TPiB: Follow the Evidence
What are you favorite spy stories?