Book Rating: ★★★★✰ (4 / 5 stars)
Sarah Martinez finds herself sitting for trial after hacking into the New York City foster care system. With the possibility of juvenile hall imminent, she is ready to resign to her fate, until a mysterious lawyer – dubbed “Mother” – shows up to save the day. He proposes a new opportunity for her: come to Scotland with him and join an elite group of adolescent spies. It seems like too good of an opportunity to pass up! But can Sarah fit in with her new brigade…while also stopping a villain from committing crimes on a global scale?
The moment I picked up City Spies, I knew I had to suspend disbelief. This is a book written for children, so some of the cartoonish aspects of the characters (and their unbelievable talent) have to be looked at through a less critical lens. Once I abandoned that, this book was a ton of fun. With nods towards the traditional heist stories, with a bit of James Bond and Harry Potter thrown in for good measure, City Spies takes us on a journey of not only espionage, but friendship and teamwork.
Not only are the characters in City Spies diverse – with different races, and even a character who is neurodivergent – but many children will see themselves in Sarah (or Brooklyn), Sydney, Paris, Kat, and Rio. They each have their own distinct personalities, and equally contribute to the team. I am sure in further books we’ll examine more than just Sarah/Brooklyn, but the others as well as they help Mother and team protect the world.
As much fun as this book is, the problems lie again in some of its silliness. While children will overlook this, as an adult reader it was something I had to note. These are extremely talented kids, but the real possibility of a twelve year old hacking into the New York State Foster Care System? Unlikely. But, children will be able to suspend disbelief over this and enjoy the story…as I did as well.
I may consider reading the next books in this saga in the future. It’s definitely a fun, quick read that I think adults and children alike will enjoy.
What’s it about?
Sara Martinez is a hacker. She recently broke into the New York City foster care system to expose her foster parents as cheats and lawbreakers. However, instead of being hailed as a hero, Sara finds herself facing years in a juvenile detention facility and banned from using computers for the same stretch of time. Enter Mother, a British spy who not only gets Sara released from jail but also offers her a chance to make a home for herself within a secret MI6 agency.
Operating out of a base in Scotland, the City Spies are five kids from various parts of the world. When they’re not attending the local boarding school, they’re honing their unique skills, such as sleight of hand, breaking and entering, observation, and explosives. All of these allow them to go places in the world of espionage where adults can’t.
Before she knows what she’s doing, Sarah is heading to Paris for an international youth summit, hacking into a rival school’s computer to prevent them from winning a million euros, dangling thirty feet off the side of a building, and trying to stop a villain…all while navigating the complex dynamics of her new team.