April 29, 2013

Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

I bought this book on an impulse after reading a couple of favorable reviews. I’m surprised I actually managed to read it, because as much as I’m a fan of impulse buys, I don’t usually read YA stories that sound, well, so juvenile. I’m even more surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Maggie is a 16-year-old spy who, along with her parents, works for a secret organization in charge of stopping criminals. As a talented safe-cracker, her job always involves waiting until her parents are done so she can come in, open the safe and get out. But when their latest target takes them to New York, she becomes the person in charge of the latest assignment: befriending the teenage son of the magazine editor who’s about to expose the entire organization.

In order to do so, Maggie enrolls in a prestigious private Manhattan high school; something that seems quite easy at first. Yet once there, she realizes that she lacks the social skills to pass as a regular teenager and that being normal might be the most difficult assignment to date. Worse, the guy she has to befriend (and ultimately betray) is really cute, and the lonely girl she meets on the first day makes her long for friendship and normalcy.

Will she be able to complete the assignment and survive high school?

This book was plain unadulterated fun. A story about a teenage spy going to high school for the first time can’t be taken too seriously, and the author knows it and rolls with it. On the other hand, a book like this is in danger of being too silly and cheesy for human consumption, even if it’s aimed at a younger audience. But although it comes perilously close to that line, it never crosses it, and the end result is a light story that uses likeable characters and a ridiculous setup to address interesting themes, or at least reinvent some tropes.

Maggie is the heart of the book; a big responsibility, for sure, but she can more than handle it. I found her endearing, charming and clever -- just the type of lead you want in a YA book. What makes her truly special, though, is the relationship she develops not only with the love interest, but with former mean-girl turned social pariah, Roux. It was interesting to see a friendship that comes out of necessity and loneliness be so grounded in honesty (even if, yes, Maggie lies to her half the book).

The love interest was just as charming. Ms. Benway takes the bad boy and turns him into something authentic and worthy of a book about people pretending to be someone else. Even better, the conflict is directly related to his character and it’s complicated enough to create tension, but manages to avoid predictable resolutions. In fact, these guys could give adult characters a lesson in communication.

And finally, parents! You heard me; there are parents in this book, as well as a third parental figure to offer guidance and help. They are present throughout the story, have a say in what the main character is doing, are supportive, and intervene when they have to. Maybe a bit too late, but that’s half of the fun.

I can’t find anything bad to say about this book other than it reads really young (as it should). But that’s more about personal taste, so the only thing that stops me from recommending it is that I’m not sure if you guys will like it. But maybe the teenage kids in your life will! It has a sweet romance, interesting characters, and positive role models. If this sounds really good to you, give it a try.

Review by Brie
Grade: 4
Sensuality: McPrude
Purchase: Amazon

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. 
I only read the first Sookie book, so the spoiler doesn’t affect me, but apparently the previous book hinted at that resolution. I’m not surprised people got upset about it, though, especially those who were invested or hoping for a different outcome. What’s truly awful (besides some really over the top reactions) is the leak of information. Can you imagine something similar happening to, let’s say, the next Psy/Changeling book? I would be so angry! Especially because I have no self-control and would probably read the spoiler.
Also Known As (AKA) by Robin Benway
Bloomsbury Juvenile. February 26, 2013.


  1. I really, really enjoyed this book and it's definitely a younger-feeling YA than I normally enjoy. But it's so fun and the dialogue is so snappy that it's pretty irresistible. Did you see that there's going to be a second novel about these characters?

    1. The dialogue is fantastic. It's one of the reasons why the book worked so well for me. And I didn't know there was a sequel! That makes me happy. I will keep an eye on it ;-)

  2. Really loved the adults in this book-they were good examples for Maggie. I'm a big YA fan so though this felt a bit on the young side, I still loved the snappy writing.

    1. I think it helped that I was expecting the book to be super cheesy, and instead it ended up being adorably quirky, which is a subtle, yet important distinction.

      The dialogue was great!


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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.