In his article “I Spy: Harriet and I,” Jack Gantos discusses “the thrill of being sneaky” (“I just liked knowing I had discovered something that was supposed to be a secret”). It’s a universal fascination — one that Harriet the Spy tapped into — which is why the ever-popular spy-novel genre continues to entice readers. This selection of recent Horn Book Guide–recommended novels for middle graders and teens — with contemporary, historical, and sci-fi settings — speaks to the allure of stories about espionage, intrigue, and general sneaking-around.
Assistant Editor, The Horn Book Guide
Bradley, F. T. Double Vision: Code Name 711
246 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2013 ISBN 978-0-06-210440-3
Gr. 4–6 In this sequel to Double Vision, super-secret agency Pandora unexpectedly approaches former operative Lincoln Baker, claiming to need his help. Linc must face his hated double, Pandora junior agent Ben Green; find a legendary historical artifact; and save the president and protect the first daughter. Bradley combines history, familiar Washington DC landmarks, dangerous obstacles, and a witty voice in this brisk, satisfying novel.
Carter, Ally United We Spy
296 pp. Hyperion 2013 ISBN 978-1-4231-6599-6
YA Gallagher Girls series. Cammie and her fellow spies are ready for a final showdown with the nefarious Circle of Cavan. When they uncover the Circle’s plan to start World War III, they take matters into their own hands, trying to stop the wheels already set in motion. Assassinations, manhunts, and prison breaks keep the pace moving quickly in this exciting Gallagher Girls finale.
Cross, Julie Vortex
360 pp. St. Martin’s Griffin/Dunne 2013 ISBN 978-0-312-56890-0
YA Jackson Meyer is a teen agent for Tempest, the CIA’s time-travel division. Eyewall, another shadowy CIA group, begins attacking the agents of Tempest, and Jackson finds his life once again entwined with Holly’s, the girl for whom he changed history in Tempest. Cross allows readers to closely connect with her characters in this fast-paced sequel.
McGowan, Jennifer Maid of Secrets
406 pp. Simon 2013 ISBN 978-1-4424-4138-5
YA Meg’s life is transformed after her skills as a pickpocket catch the eye of Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster. Trained with four others to operate as a secret cadre of spies hidden among the queen’s “Maids of Honor,” Meg begins to question her own identity. Smartly researched (though populated by anachronistically modern-acting young women), McGowan’s novel is full of inviting court intrigue, both political and romantic.
Norris, Elizabeth Unbreakable
481 pp. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray 2013 ISBN 978-0-06-210376-5
YA Several months after the Wave Function Collapse destroyed her Earth, Janelle must team up with her former enemy, FBI agent Taylor Barclay, to stop a group of inter-dimensional slave traders and save Janelle’s missing boyfriend, who, suspected of leading the ring, has been sentenced to death. This gripping sequel will satisfy fans of Unraveling and any reader who enjoys futuristic espionage tales.
Smith, Roland and Michael P. Spradlin The Alamo
256 pp. Sleeping Bear 2013 ISBN 978-1-58536-822-8
PE ISBN 978-1-58536-821-1
Gr. 4–6 I, Q series. Q and Angela are united not only as step-siblings but also as covert agents working for the president of the United States. Here intrigue follows them to San Antonio, Texas, where they once again encounter a dangerous terrorist cell. A list of characters and a preface bring readers up to speed for this suspenseful and thrilling fourth book in the series.
Vance, Talia Spies and Prejudice
298 pp. Egmont 2013 ISBN 978-1-60684-260-7
YA Berry Fields is too busy working for her father as a private investigator to think about love. Then, as she’s looking into clues surrounding her mother’s death, she meets gorgeous Tanner Halston, who seems to have an interest in her investigations. Should she trust him? This modern Pride and Prejudice take-off works well as a Veronica Mars–esque teen detective story.
Zettel, Sarah Palace of Spies
362 pp. Harcourt 2013 ISBN 978-0-544-07411-8
YA Palace of Spies series. In eighteenth-century London, destitute orphan Peggy Fitzroy agrees to impersonate the recently deceased spy Lady Francesca as maid of honor to Princess Caroline. With a war of succession, jilted love, and religious turmoil in the mix, Peggy must navigate intrigue and shady liaisons to uncover the truth behind her predecessor’s death. The feisty narrator and lush period details will garner fans for this new series.
From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.