I loved Robin Benway’s Also Known As. It’s about a 16-year-old safecracking prodigy and superspy who is assigned to infiltrate a private school in New York City in order to…well, the specifics of the plotting don’t really matter a whole lot. Basically, in addition to some espionage-related activities—including defeating a murderous madman masquerading as an ally—she made some friends her own age, which was a first for her. Going Rogue, due out next month, takes place about a year later. Maggie is a happy girl—still dating Jesse, still best friends with the irrepressible (and inimitable) Roux, getting ready to start her senior year—but, despite a rather serious case of denial, she’s been missing her spy hijinks a whole lot.
Of course, luckily for her (and us), she’s about to get pulled back in.
Going Rogue has exactly the same weakness as Also Known As—actually, the storyline is even more inane this time around—but fans of the first one won’t be coming back for the plotting. They’ll be coming back because of the many strengths of the first book: the banter, the humor, the heart. Maggie, unlike so many other teen spies/detectives/vampire hunters/world-savers, has a GREAT relationship with her parents—the interactions between the three of them are easily the funniest in the book—and not only do they know about her activities, they condone them…because they’re spies, too. That set-up allows for some nice parallels in action and emotion: It drives Maggie bananas when the adults keep information from her in an effort to keep her safe, but then she turns around and does exactly the same thing to her civilian friends.
It deals with the effect that keeping secrets has on trust, with the annoying details of living a double life, with making sacrifices to keep loved ones safe, and with being ANGRY about making those sacrifices. Benway avoids going the superannoying girl-wonder-considers-giving-up-her-passion-for-a-boy route—Maggie has a very strong sense of self, she knows who and what is, and she (happily) never even considers trying to become someone else to please her boyfriend. While Jesse is rather boring (as is their romance, now that he’s not her mark), he does deserve Supportive Boyfriend points for never suggesting—not even hinting—that she quit: He loves her for who she is, not for some idealized version of herself.
At its emotional core, though, Going Rogue is Roux’s story. In Also Known As, we saw how her friendship strengthened and changed Maggie, and in this book, we see how it’s done the same for Roux. And not just Roux’s relationship with Maggie, but her relationship with the adults in Maggie’s life: Maggie has gained a friend, but Roux has a gained a friend and three seriously caring parental figures. Like Maggie, her love interest isn’t particularly interesting or three-dimensional, but it was so nice seeing Roux happy that I wished the critical part of my brain off into the cornfield and just enjoyed the ride.
As I said before, an easy pick for Ally Carter fans.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.