Release Date: Feb. 26, 2013
Age Group: Young Adult
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
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.
So, newsflash, y'all: I'm kind of weird. One of the things that's weirdest about me? My sense of humor. It's a bit, shall we say, off the wall. However, I am grateful and honored to announce that Robin Benway totally gets me and my quirkiness, because she's written a story that had me legitimately LOLing. And not just in that book-laugh way. I'm talking Bill-Hader-breaking-character-when-he's-being-Stefon kind of way. In all of the very best and most ridiculous ways, Also Known As is a hysterically good time.
Maggie's a teenage spy, a veritable wunderkind at cracking safes and opening locks. She and her parents work for The Collective, a supermegafoxyawesomely secret network of spies that brings down the worst criminals in the world. Their work keeps them moving from country to country, which means Maggie's had the least normal childhood of all time. One fateful day, Maggie and her parents move to Manhattan, where she's given her very first solo assignment: befriend rich kid Jesse Oliver in order to take down his media magnate father and keep him from printing a whistle-blowing article about The Collective. Maggie's ready to do everything she can to prove she's a bona fide spy and not just a teenager, but in her attempts to keep her job, she may lose everything.
I know that doesn't sound like it would be snorting-in-public hilarious, but the laughs don't come from the plot; they come from the characters. Literally everyone in Also Known As is a big heaping bag of random, even Maggie's parents and especially her best-spy-friend-forever Angelo. When Maggie's inner monologue kicks off into a story about her imaginary relationship with her Icelandic neighbor, I knew I was in for a treat. In my head, she sounds like a young Lorelai Gilmore who also solves crimes or even a less jaded Veronica Mars. And it only gets better from there. Maggie may be fantastically sharp, witty, and dry, but the award for Most Uniquely Voiced Character In Also Known As goes to Roux. That girl is a trip. She's chock-full o' whipsmart one liners and out of nowhere segues that keep both Maggie and the reader of their toes. I mean, she says one of my favorite Dirty Dancing quotes to a dog and instructs a bagel to "get in my mouth!" She's like how I'd like to think that I was in high school, minus the absent parents and the occasional excessive wine drinking. As for the romance, while there's the hint of insta-love, Jesse and Maggie are far too perfect together for me to care. Take, for instance, this exchange-- Maggie: I like you. Like, like like you. Like, a lot. Jesse: That's a lot of likes.
The only thing that bugged me was the ending. After all this build-up, not to mention the constant talk of the amazingly awesome things that Maggie and her family have seen and achieved (and seriously, what happened in Luxembourg?), the final action sequence left me feeling whelmed, which I didn't think was possible outside of Europe. I thoroughly adored the build-up, and Roux honestly kept saying more hilarious things than I could have imagined, but still... I would've liked a little more... oomph.
Oomphlessness aside, Also Known As is a must-read for anyone who loves snark and weirdness and hilarity and me.