A 12-year-old spy trainee proves his calling in spite of obvious physical drawbacks, in this entertaining middle-grade adventure.
The Double Cross, and Other Skills I Learned as a Superspy by Jackson Pearce. Bloomsbury, 2015, 291 pages.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-14, especially boys
Hale Jordan is, well, fat—a factor that would seem to work against his ambition to be a spy. Spying is in his blood: his parents are active members of the Sub Rosa Society, an organization devoted to fighting evil, and his little sister Kennedy consistently outperforms her big brother in the physical side of their training. Nobody seems to have high expectations of Hale until both parents are kidnapped, apparently by The League, arch-enemy of the SRS. Hale vows to rescue them—but things are not what they seem! Plot twists abound, as Hale proves that body type doesn’t cancel out initiative, innovation, and the ability to think on one’s feet. And a good thing too, for sequels loom, namely The Inside Job, appearing in mid-July.
Hale’s size is an apparent drawback, not an actual one; he has more than enough canniness and acumen for the average 12-year-old—in fact, his first-person voice often sounds more like a thirty-something female author than an above-average preteen. As for plot, the two espionage organizations don’t seem to exist for any purpose other than to battle each other, and the bad guys’ eeeevil plan seems far-fetched even for a juvenile save-the-world fantasy. But the inventive action, humorous touches, and likeable hero make this a fun read, and kids who feel themselves a little too big, too small, too this or too that will enjoy seeing Hale outperform expectations.
Cautions: Language (one “hell”)
Overall rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 4
- Artistic value: 3.5
Categories: Middle Grades, Adventure, Character Qualities
Cover image from Barnes & Noble