Two Lies and a Spy. What caught me first was the cover: a girl front and center, her private-school-uniform tie loosened, and behind her two hunks, both handsome in their own way. The subtitle is "Heists. Hijinks. Homework." The book came out in September 2013 (Simon and Schuster) but I haven't been able to read it until now because I was caught in a tug-of-war for the book between the two twelve-year-olds and the ten-year-old in my life who all got first dibs on it.
If you are a twelve-year-old kid and you like lots of action with your romance and coming of age, stop reading this review and go read the book.
If you are an aspiring writer of young adult literature, this book is a good one to study. Case-worthy example of hooks that grab and don't let go and cliffhangers that keep you turning the pages. Very hard to do in YA, with all of its short chapters.
Also a text-book example of how to do character voice. Primary is Karina Andrews, the main character. She's got a massive crush on the Adonis-like Luke. In their first encounter in the book, she forgets her mouth is full of M&M's:
Evan may look as if he stepped out of GQ, but it's Luke who does funny things to me. I get discombobulated around him and my knees turn to rubber. I also do dumb things—like forget I have M&M's in my mouth as I greet him with a big smile.
Evan is the guy who is carrying an unrequited torch for her through the whole book. The rest of the ensemble is made up of Kale, the martial-artist, Lacey, the fashionista with a body designed to show off the latest fashions, Rita, the computer genius, and last but not least, Charlie, Karina's seven-year old brother, who is also a genius, perhaps genetically manipulated before birth to be so.
Karin's quest is to get her own spy-parents out of a secret prison in Langley. Her larger quest is to decide who she is, separately from her parents. The choices she makes at the end of the book, though justified, are huge, but the action is so non-stop that the leaves us almost with the feeling of having fallen off a cliff. We know what happened, we know why, but some kind of breather to help us absorb the enormity of it would have been good.
Perhaps that's coming in the sequel, which will be available in June of 2014.