Dirk Daring, Secret Agent (2014) returns for another spy romp.
Darren Dirkowitz, aka Dirk Daring, is trying his best to survive middle school. Unfortunately, the odds are not in his favor. The Wolf Lords, a gang of teen toughs, are extorting hundreds of dollars from Darren and his pals, and there are rumors that his beloved Preston Middle School might be merging with the dastardly Northern Senior Public School. And on top of all that, Darren's circle of friends is growing up—and possibly apart. Becker spins a lot of plates, with varying degrees of success. The school-merger plotline is a bit of a bust, and the extortion drama just doesn't hold a candle to the blackmail plot of the previous book. But this second entry shines when it comes to the characters’ relationships, particularly the evolving love story between Darren and Opal. The author perfectly captures a middle school crush that is getting just deep enough to matter but not so much so that it's troublesome to either participant. The narrative is also peppered with the same spy jargono that made the first Dirk Daring adventure such a blast. This is a very silly book, but it never crosses the line into inanity.
With a smart balance of humor and heart, this is a winning sequel. (Fiction. 8-12)