Also Known As (AKA) by Robin Benway
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Pages: 319 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Sixteen-year-old Maggie is a brilliant safecracker who's been helping her international-spy parents with their assignments since early childhood, the three of them assuming a string of false identities as they expose high-level crime all over the planet. In the course of Maggie's adventurous life, however, there is one experience she's never had--high school. Until the moment she's offered her first solo assignment in New York City, she's always been home schooled. Now she'll attend a $30,000/year exclusive private school in Manhattan in order to befriend Jesse, a boy her age who is the son of a mega-rich media mogul who is about to break a story that could ruin the lives of Maggie and her parents--and many other spies in their secret organization. Maggie is thrilled to have a chance to prove her mettle as a spy, but two major problems stand in her way: she's intensely attracted to handsome, witty Jesse, and she forms an unlikely but important friendship with Roux, a former Mean Girl who has been a social outcast since the previous school year when she slept with her best friend's boyfriend.
This book is primarily a chick-lit, spy-caper novel, and Maggie's relationships with her unconventional-but-loving parents and her lock-picking mentor, Angelo (who may or may not be an assassin) are simply terrific. Angelo is one of the most amazing characters I've seen in a YA novel in years. His tenderness toward Maggie is lovely, and the mysterious nature of his spy work adds an additional dimension to him that is fascinating. The requisite orphaning necessary for all YA protagonists so they can fight their own battles is not achieved via the common means employed in YA of parental neglect, incompetence, or general cluelessness. Instead it happens because of the nature of Maggie's spy assignment.
I loved Maggie's friendship with Roux, who is both extremely funny and very touching as she learns the true meaning of friendship for the first time ever as she connects with Maggie.
The romance with Jesse is absolutely wonderful. I am a sucker for clever repartee between the heroine and her love interest in a comedy, and this book is full of funny dialogue between them.
Both relationships are a first for Maggie, who has never had the chance to be around kids her age. All three teens have been wounded by past life experiences, and it is very moving to see how being together strengthens and heals all of them.
There is plenty of action-adventure in the story as well. The climax is very exciting, and the resolution of the story is supremely emotionally satisfying.
I have no idea if the author plans a sequel, but if she does, there is plenty of room for more comic spy adventures for Maggie and crew. I'm also very grateful that all the loose ends are tied up in this story so we are not left with an aggravating cliffhanger.
I rate this book as follows:
Action/Adventure Plot: 5
Romance Plot: 5