Stylish 10-year-old Jada Sly does not believe that her diplomat mother died in a plane crash; can her new top-secret spy crew help her decode the mystery behind her disappearance?
Jada’s father has been named the new director of the African-American Sly family museum, causing the little family to relocate from France to New York City. Papa calls her a “strong little black woman,” but she’s been having panic attacks since that crash. She also insists that her mother is alive. After all, Jada’s convinced Mama was really a spy, so her disappearance must just be part of a mission. At her new school, she befriends Brooklyn, another African-American girl, who introduces her to the secret spy club, and Jada is thrilled to enlist their help with her real-life mystery. All Jada knows is the name of a co-worker her mom mentioned before rushing off to allegedly catch her flight. Armed with that knowledge and glimpsing furtive men everywhere, she hatches a plan with her friends. While Jada’s family history and her interest in art are memorable, her narration doesn’t quite find its footing, at times sparkling but at others repetitive. The thriller plot is aimed squarely at genre beginners, requiring readers to follow Jada’s reasoning without question in order to find satisfaction in the over-the-top conclusion. The book’s design, however, with both Winston’s own grayscale illustrations and select text picked out with red highlights, is as snazzy as Jada.
A beginner thriller with some real gems in it. (Mystery. 8-12)