I realize that if every book I thought would make a good television show actually got the green light, we’d need at least 18 new channels to make room for them all. (Which would be fine with me, but sadly, I’m not in charge of these things.) So, yes: I found another one. Robin Benway’s Also Known As would make some GREAT TV. Plus, it would fill the Alias-sized hole that was torn into our collective heart on that sad, sad day seven years ago... with the added bonus of at least beginning to heal the wounds we all also incurred with the endless circling-of-the-drain and then final demise of Veronica Mars.
It’s always a good sign when a book starts with a line like “I cracked my first lock when I was three.” It suggests cocky, it suggests silly, but above all, it suggests FUN. And the rest of the book totally lives up to it. Also Known As is about 16-year-old Maggie—aka every other iteration of the name Margaret imaginable—Silver (not her real last name), a safe-cracking prodigy. She’s the daughter of a hacker and a linguist/statistician, and all three of them work for the Collective, a covert group of independent spies devoted to Righting Wrongs and Doing Good around the globe, by whatever means—legal or otherwise—necessary. This is the story of Maggie’s first solo mission, in which she needs to infiltrate a private school, make friends with a boy, gain his trust in some yet-to-be-determined way, and then steal some documents from his hugely paranoid father.
If she succeeds? Awesome. She’ll win accolades (secret accolades, but still) from the higher-ups, and hopefully it’ll make her parents realize that she’s not a little girl any more. If she fails? The downfall of the Collective, and everyone she’s ever known or loved will be in danger of being assassinated. But, you know: no pressure. In addition to all of the spying, she’s in a traditional school environment for the first time ever, so she suddenly has to do something she’s never had to do before, something way harder than any of the homework: She has to make friends.
Luckily, she’s got more on her side than her (seriously awesome) spy prowess, her parents and (SPOILER!) her new friends. She’s also got Angelo the mostly-retired forger. He’s her mentor and friend, and clearly the COOLEST GUY EVER: “like if Tim Gunn and James Bond had a baby, and that baby was Yoda.” (OBVIOUSLY, Victor Garber would HAVE to play him in the television show.)
Plausible? Not particularly, no. But true plausibility goes flying out the window with the basic premise, so that’s not a serious issue. It’s not just a spy story, either; it’s also a story about friendship and trust, family and growing up and the horror of school uniforms. Also, it uses lots of the classic romantic comedy cliches (there’s even an ice-skating scene!) without ever feeling cliched. It’s smart, laugh-out-loud funny, hugely entertaining, it passes the Bechdel Test, and I can’t wait to see what Maggie & Co. get up to next. Highly recommended to fans of Ally Carter.