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ISLAND OF SPIES by Sheila Turnage


by Sheila Turnage

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-7352-3125-2
Publisher: Dial Books

World War II brings U-boats, spies, and adventure to a North Carolina island community.

Even before the United States entered the war, 12-year-old Sarah Stickley Lawson, called Stick by family and friends, and her two best friends, Neb and Rain, longing for adventure in their quiet Hatteras Island town, formed a group called the Dime Novel Kids to solve mysteries while they awaited assignments from the FBI. Neb, also 12 and also White, is the son of the former lighthouse keeper, so the trio uses the abandoned Hatteras lighthouse as a lookout. Rain, 10, born on the beach to a mysterious White woman who can’t remember her past, has brown skin, stirring up prejudice from some White islanders. While the kids are suspecting the town’s postmistress of being a spy, real trouble comes in the form of German U-boats bombing cargo ships off the coast. Meanwhile, Stick’s Papa is missing at sea. Turnage takes a little-known piece of American history and sets it solidly among realistic characters and an entertaining saga of island life. Her trademark folksy narration and love of metaphor do this particular tale a disservice, however: The Dime Novel Kids are so quirky and imaginative that it takes readers a long time to realize that the U-boats and possible spies are real, and the plotting and pace sag under the weight of the charm.

A mismatch between voice and story weakens this otherwise promising novel.

(author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)