A teenage girl balances high school life with a career as a U.S. secret agent alongside her spy father in Studdard’s (Adventures on Dinosaur Planet, 2013, etc.) YA thriller.
Sixteen-year-old Amanda Anderson learns that her dad, James, is an operative for the United States Intelligence Agency after two foreign agents try to kill them both. Father and daughter flee California for Seattle with new identities as Michael and Kiana Cruise. The USIA then recruits Kiana, whom Michael had stealthily been training; she’s already a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo. Otherwise, though, she’s a typical teen, dealing with boys, bullies, and her widower father’s newish girlfriend, fellow USIA agent Christine Carmichael. But she also joins Michael and Christine on missions, so Kiana requires skills to protect herself. Studdard’s novel is a spirited romp that plays like a YA James Bond tale. Kiana has plenty of gadgets, not the least of which is her very first car—a red Camaro outfitted with goodies comparable to a certain Aston Martin’s, including a passenger-side ejection seat. Her best gadget, though, is one that seems appropriate for a teenager: a virtually indestructible iPhone with, among other things, a built-in stun gun. There’s a supervillain, too: Russian arms dealer Pavel Voronov, who’s planning to launch a toxin to create a global plague. Kiana’s assignments, though, are generally unrelated to one another, and Voronov’s plot unfortunately doesn’t become a narrative focus until near the end. However, the capable Kiana ultimately proves more entertaining in her everyday life. For example, she challenges several bullies who victimize other students at her high school; she also eventually comes to terms with Christine, the first woman that Michael’s been with since Kiana’s mom died five years ago. However, there are few things better than Kiana’s response when her date goes for an unsanctioned hand on the knee. Studdard tops off his tale with the revelation of a possible mole, unexpected injuries, a shocking death or two, and a potentially formidable ally for Kiana.
An endlessly enjoyable espionage tale with an ultracool teen protagonist primed for her own series.