I like books about spies. Maybe it’s because I watch a profuse amount of spy shows or I just find James Bond to be hot (the British accent does something to me, ya’ll). I really don’t know what it is, but whenever there’s a spy oriented book in YA I just have to grab it. And that’s why I requested Also Known As from NetGalley. And thankfully, they answered my request with a yes.
General Summary: Maggie was born to be a spy. Her parents are spoofs and lately she’s been sort of gotten into the family business of course. That’s when she gets her greatest mission yet: get close to Jesse Oliver. But who exactly is Jesse Oliver?
This is a weird book for me to review. If you talked to me after I finished the first third, I’d give it a superior or great rating. The second third great for sure, but not superior. But by the end of the book, it bordered on mediocre/ disappointment. And I have to say that’s really annoying. Because when there are portions of a book that are truly brilliant and other parts that sort of suck you just want to distribute all that brilliance equally so at least there’s some continuity in quality in the book. So this review, it’s going to be a mixed bag. I have a lot of nice things to say, but at the same time I’m still going to bitch.
The brilliant parts of the book: there were lots of them. I really liked Maggie, Roux, Jesse, and Angelo. All of them were well formed characters. Do know how difficult that is to do in YA which is notorious for it’s cardboard supporting cast. That’s a great thing. Also, Benway includes a LBGT character who actually acts like a character rather than a token character. That in my opinion is always a plus. However, even though a lot of these characters were well formed the parents needed to be worked on. I don’t know if was Benway’s intention or not, but I thought at times the parents came off a bit cartoonish and sounded like teens themselves. Also, while I loved Angelo I seriously had to wonder why he’d be best friends with a fifteen-year-old (or however old Maggie is), it was just a little weird to be honest.
This book also had great witty dialogue. I love witty dialogue. It heavily reminded me of Gillmore Girls or Bunheads, shows you watch for the dialogue more than anything else. While a quick read you had to pay attention to pick up on all the little jokes that were littered throughout the work. The bad thing about the dialogue was that sometimes it was too much and just bogged down the work. Seriously, at times I thought I was reading Damien Spinelli’s dialogue rather than Rory Gilmore’s and that’s not a good thing.
Honestly, if anything pacing was this book Achilles’ heel. I’ll discuss this more in the worst feature part of the review, but I felt like way too much attention was given to the whole acclimation to high school/relationship with Jesse. Which is odd because I usually like development in these sorts of things, i just felt the whole spy plot was sort of pushed to the side which made the last third of the book very awkward.
But then again, I think this book wanted to come off as awkward.
Best Feature: Gilmore Girls Dialogue: While the quirkiness could get to me occasionally (especially towards the end). There were some great one liners here that made me smile. The dialogue was really what made the book in my opinion. However, I think at the same time it broke the book. The spy element was fairly weak and I think a lot of this was because there was so much focus on the interaction between the characters which I loved but…maybe this book would’ve been better as just a contemporary.
Worst Feature: Pacing. The pacing for this novel is way off. The first 3/4 of the book are primarily about Maggie’s relationship with Jesse which is nice, but the spy story is swept aside to the very end. Which, in my opinion, makes for a very messy ending. There were also plot points that seemed to just jump the shark, i.e. Maggie revealing her secret to two teeny boppers.
Blockbuster Worthy: This would actually probably make a better screenplay than book. Here’s my casting picks (and yes, I sort of stole them off of Bunheads, but when a books writing is so similar to that of the great Amy Sherman Palladino then casting becomes extremely easy).
Maggie: Julia Goldani Telles: She plays Sasha on Bunheads and while I see Maggie’s character as a cross between her a Boo (also on Bunheads) it works. Enough.
Jesse: Garret Cofey: He plays Sasha’s boyfriend on Bunheads/is the Jesse of this version of Gilmore Girls. Therefore, it works.
Overall Rating: Seven magnifying glasses. I was real close to giving this one a six, so maybe six point five. It had such a strong start, but the ending really wasn’t satisfying at all.