Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: ALSO KNOWN AS by Robin Benway

Title: Also Known As 

Author: Robin Benway

Publication date: February 26th, 2013

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Source: ebook from NetGalley and special thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury.

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.



I cracked my first lock when I was three.

THAT was the first sentence. A simple, no-nonsense sentence that, if you for whatever reason hadn't read the synopsis, lets us know this is going to be a fantastic book. Spies, interesting synopsis, cool cover, even cooler title, and an amazing author. Honestly, how can it not be good? 

I'll get to that a little later. 

Maggie Silver has been wanting to be treated as a real spy and an adult by being granted a real mission (none of this opening a safe then spending the rest of the time pigging out in front of the TV business) forever. Her parents are spies as well and do the missions while Maggie is brought in when they need a forger or safecracker. 

Angelo, however, is an old family friend and like an uncle of sorts to Maggie. He's more in the story than her parents and is the one who taught Maggie everything. The forging? He's the king. It's declared in the story that since Maggie started so young, she's a prodigy and a valuable asset to the Collective, the agency her family works in. 

Finally, she's granted a solo assignment. However, it's not what she thought it would be. Maggie has to go to a uniform-wearing high school, befriend (or depending on who you ask, seduce) a lame "rebel-without-a-cause" boy named Jesse Oliver so she can steal his dad's documents about her family, all while her parents confuse her with their extreme over-protectiveness. 

Let me start off by saying this is filled with lots of wit and charm. Packed to the brim with it. It made me laugh out loud in parts and smile and go "I wish I was that witty." However, it fell flat in areas for me. 

Probably the one thing that started to get annoying was the spying itself and the unrealistic-ness of it. This whole book is about spying, right? So where was it? I went to the Goodreads page to see if anyone else felt the same and Alison Morris couldn't have said it better: 
As a SPY story this book is lacking. Maggie (our heroine) is purported to be an expert spy, as are her parents, but we see them do relatively little spying in the course of 350 pages. Sure, Maggie cracks a few safes and picks a few locks, but apart from that there's scant evidence of espionage. There are no cool spy gadgets, she does not (as the cover of my ARC would suggest) don ANY disguises, nor does she do impersonations, trail suspects, crack codes, deliver secret messages, or do any of the other things I've come to expect fictional spies (even teen spies) to do. I also found it agonizingly implausible that none of her wealthy, secretive targets appears to have a single security camera (at least she never mentions or disables one), let alone an alarm on their property. No - this book is neither a solid spy story, nor particularly satisfying as a mystery.
When I read that, I was thinking, "YES! Preach it." She explained my feelings on the subject and since I don't think I can say it any better, I'll just leave it to Alison Morris. 

However, the wit saves the day. Maggie is witty, charming, and snarky. She made me laugh and smile. Roux, her friend, can be over the top, but also witty as well. They're mentioned as being a lot a like during most of the book which I had to agree with. It was also refreshing in a way. More and more, it seems as if best friends are portrayed as completely different in novels or movies. In real life, they might be opposite, but usually they're pretty much the same. To have this pair of friends on the same level with only a few differences (with different kinds of parents and you know, the spy thing) made me enjoy the book even more. 

The friendship was all-around enjoyable. Not just between Roux and Maggie, but between Maggie and Angelo, and Maggie and Jesse. She's instructed to not become attached to anyone but she soon becomes incredibly close to both Roux and Jesse. I loved the way socially awkward Maggie and social outcast Roux clicked together, fulfilling each other's needs for friendship. 

Then of course, there's Jesse. He didn't make me drool, sigh, and make him wish to be mine, but I did like watching the attraction between him and Maggie unfold. The whole falling in love part felt way too fast for me though since I don't believe that's even possible, but their relationship was cute indeed.

Light, fun read? Yes.

Witty and charming? Yes. (Although sometimes, there are places that try a bit too hard.)

Romance, friendship, clever quips, and a family that's NOT broken? Yes.

But if you want a story with more spy action, more realistic elements, and something that will feed your Gallagher Girl impatience (how that's even possible, I don't know)? No, not in my opinion. 

Robin Benway is an amazing author who is definitely one of my favorites so maybe that was one of my problems. I had very, very high expectations for this book. I basically screamed when I found out NetGalley and Bloomsbury accepted me to read this a month before it comes out. Although this whole review might sound like I didn't like it, that's not the truth. I did like it a lot, but don't think it's jam packed with spy-y things and action. The unrealistic-ness of it prodded at me, but I think it's supposed to be a fluffy read, which it was.

Verdict: Witty and charming and not what I was expecting, but still enjoyable.


  1. I just started reading this book. It's really cute so far! Robin Benway is so witty and Audrey, Wait is one of my favorites, so I guess my expectations are high as well.
    Glad you liked it for the most part, though it wasn't quite what you expected. Great review :)

    1. Well, I hope you like the rest of it!
      Thank you :)

  2. I kept saying "I wish I was that witty," throughout the book too, Robin Benway can write such great scenes! But parts of the book fell flat for me too; I wish there was more spying/action in it, but like you said, it was supposed to be a fluffy read. I loved the relationships between the characters too (especially that her family wasn't broken). Loved your review! :)

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

    1. She really can! I still imagine some scenes from her two other books.
      Thank you :)

  3. This sounds like a fun book, but not to be taken seriously as a spy/mystery novel. Maggie sounds like a great character!

  4. I realized I was behind on commenting on blogs, so I innocently came here to see what I missed, and now I am just thinking, NOOO! I was totally counting on Also Known As to tide me over until the last GG book comes out. :( But I still love Robin Benway, and I am so glad her trademark wit salvages the story. I think I'll like it much better now that I'm not expecting Ally Carter-esque spy elements, so thanks for letting me know!

    1. Well, maybe YOU'LL like it, but I definitely don't think it comes close to GG. Robin Benway will always be great and you're welcome! :)

  5. I'm so glad you wrote this review because I haven't heard much about this book, and I'm on the blog tour so I want to know what to expect. I'm glad there is wit, and I'm hoping that I can get past the flat parts. Great review--and I love the Snape gif!

    YA Sisterhood

    1. I'm glad to help! I hope you love it, especially with you being on the tour. Thank you!