Imagine a group of kids. Imagine they are spies. Imagine that the fate of every intelligence agency across the world hinges on their next decision. That’s what it’s like in City Spies by James Ponti. The first of a series, it has everything from deadly viruses and criminal masterminds to food-loving boys and mathematical geniuses.
The story starts with Sara. She’s not in the greatest of situations. Actually, let’s rephrase that. She’s just been arrested for hacking the juvenile justice system and a bank, and is going to be sentenced to two and a half years in juvenile detention. And, even though she did it to expose her cruel foster parents as frauds, this is not enough to get her out of trouble.
That is, until a mysterious man who calls himself "Mother" walks in and frees Sara from prison, then asks her to join his team of kid spies on their latest emergency mission...
From the get go, I loved this book. It was right up my alley and there was no way anyone could have made me stop reading it! Even if you dragged me off to court for hacking a bank, I’d probably still be desperately reading (and hoping to pick up some tips from Sara).
Part of what made this novel so good was the humor. The characters’ dialogue had me laughing out loud, even through the tension and excitement, and this made the book very relatable.
I also really enjoyed the characters themselves. There are quite a lot of them to get to know but somehow they all fit together seamlessly. This doesn’t mean they always work together seamlessly, though! In fact, there’s quite a bit of rivalry and hostility at the start. While the story mainly focuses on Sara (later known as Brooklyn), the backgrounds of some of the other characters are revealed as the story goes on.
City Spies stood out for me because of the multinational settings. Over the course of the book, the story takes you from the US to Scotland and then to France. And each member of the team is also from a different country: Nepal, Rwanda, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Australia — you name it. Luckily for me, they all speak English!
If you’re not a fan of mystery or spy stories, City Spies probably isn’t for you. While I enjoyed it a lot, it’s set in a real "spy world," so for readers who prefer other genres, this is not a crossover to fantasy or sci-fi or horror. On the other hand, if you are a spy story enthusiast, read this book!
City Spies by James Ponti. Aladdin Paperbacks, 2021. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!
If you have further interest in James Ponti's novel City Spies, please check out then blogger, now '20—21 intern Thee Sim Ling's interview with James Ponti, here!