“City Spies” by James Ponti is an action story that kids (and adults) will love. A group of underdog kids as young as twelve live in an old manor home in Scotland and work with a British spy nicknamed “Mother” as a team foiling international villains.
First we meet Sara, from whose perspective the story is mostly told. She is in custody after hacking into the New York City computers to expose her cheating, horrible foster parents. But when a debonair man offers to represent her, she quickly chooses him as her lawyer rather than the public defender who was going to agree to her serving time in a juvenile detention home. After she quickly hacks into the State of New York court computers to substitute in the new lawyer, the change of attorneys looks legitimate . By that evening, she’s on a plane to Scotland and a new life.
Since all members of the team are named after the cities they came from, Sara becomes Brooklyn and joins Paris, Rio, Sydney, and Kat. But before she becomes a bona fide member of the team, she must prove herself. She passes with flying colors.
Each team member has his or her speciality, and Sara’s is her wicked computer skills. She boasts of hacking into an astronaut’s computer to wish her a happy birthday and then shares that she had to hack into international computers because the astronaut in question was on the International Space System for her birthday. Her team mates are duly impressed.
Ponti gives a bit of backstory for some of the team members and in the process shares the backstory of Mother, who lost his wife and children when his wife, also a spy for MI6, double-crossed him, left him for dead, and absconded with their two children. He’s never stopped looking for them.
The story jumps from Brooklyn to Scotland and then to Paris, where the team participates in a science challenge as part of their mission for MI6. And while the team does thwart the dastardly plot by the end of the story, they do not (spoiler alert) nab the bad guy. So the scene is set for the next book in this new series. Kids will eagerly anticipate its appearance.
The plot is intriguing, the dialogue snappy, the characters very appealing and appealingly flawed, and the book difficult to put down. Prepare for an enjoyable read that, ironically, features a deadly virus that has no cure. Hmmm.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Aladdin, for review purposes.