With the release of Adele’s lushly orchestrated theme song and heaps of media coverage, the buzz is building for the opening of Skyfall (PG-13) on November 9, 2012. The premiere of the 23rd thrill-packed installment in the James Bond oeuvre also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the film series, which launched in 1962 with Dr. No and starred Sean Connery as the first big-screen incarnation of Ian Fleming’s iconic character. Now, Daniel Craig returns for his third performance as a rough-and-ready yet emotionally and physically vulnerable 007. After a mission in Istanbul goes wrong, Bond ends up missing in action and presumed dead. Meanwhile, back in London, a terrorist attack and information leak have placed MI6 headquarters under siege and the competence of M (Judi Dench) to run the Secret Service into question. Finally resurfacing, Bond embarks on a dangerous quest to identify and annihilate the threat. However, his loyalty to M may exact a devastating personal toll, as secrets from her past come back to haunt them both.
Directed by Sam Mendes and released by MGM and Columbia Pictures, Skyfall is the first film in the franchise to be presented in IMAX format. The cast also includes Javier Bardem as the villainous Raoul Silva; Ralph Fiennes as security committee chairman Gareth Mallory; Ben Whishaw as the new, very fresh-faced tech guru, Q; Bérénice Marlohe as femme fatale Sévérine; and Naomie Harris as the capable and charismatic field agent, Eve. Teens can get a taste of the action by visiting the official website for previews, clips, and behind-the-scenes videoblogs narrated by cast and crew. Experienced Bond viewers can also test their knowledge by accessing an interactive trailer in the “Extras” section, clicking on the “007” icon, and answering multiple choice questions covering 50 years of trivia.
Live and Let Read
Take advantage of the Bond bonanza and display or booktalk a selection of recently published young adult spy thrillers. Impossible to put down, these titles feature an array of unforgettable protagonists, a mix of time periods and settings, and a teen-tantalizing variety of narrative styles.
One Day High School, the Next Day Espionage
High school senior Perry Stormaire is just an average guy, obsessing over college applications, caving into his controlling father’s decrees, and daydreaming about his band, Inchworm, one day making it big. That is until his mother forces him to take their quiet and drab Lithuanian foreign exchange student to the prom, and his life is changed forever. Shedding her frumpy peasant dress and bottle-thick glasses to reveal a sleek and sexy, highly trained, and resolutely determined assassin, Gobi is dead set on completing her mission to off five targets before daybreak. Forced at gunpoint to chauffeur her around Manhattan in his father’s purloined Jaguar, the petrified Perry has no choice but to acquiesce, and soon finds himself dodging flying bullets and dead bodies (as well as his frantic father’s calls). However, once Perry learns the reason for Gobi’s lethal spree—and is dazzled by an intoxicating lipstick-and-gunpowder-flavored kiss—he gathers his courage and willingly transforms from captive to compatriot. Joe Schreiber’s Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick (2011; Gr 8 Up) dazzles readers with drolly delivered humor, rapid-fire action, and a surprisingly believable romance. The adventures continue in Perry’s Killer Playlist (Nov. 2012, both Houghton).
Farrah Higgins, aka A Girl Named Digit (Houghton Mifflin, 2012; Gr 9 Up), has resolved to keep her status as math genius under wraps and cruise through senior year as part of the popular crowd. However, her true number-crunching geekiness is outed when she manages to crack a complex code used by a group of eco-terrorists and begins to investigate it on her own. Targeted by the bad guys, she is whisked into hiding by the FBI and placed under the care of John Bennett, a 21-year-old agent who is as sexy as he is smart. Even better, John finds her amazing math mojo attractive, and before long, the two are working side-by-side to track down the criminals and root out a double agent, while also falling in love. Annabel Monaghan’s fast-paced novel percolates with brain-teasing ciphers and puzzles, whirlwind action, and cloak-and-dagger danger. Digit’s first-person narrative is quirky and laugh-out-loud funny, and her growing self-acceptance—as she finally begins to feel comfortable in her own skin and fully embraces her abilities and long-hated nickname—is empowering.
A World War II Epic
Identifying herself only by her Code Name Verity (Hyperion, 2012; Gr 9 Up), Julia Beaufort-Stuart, a secret agent captured by the Gestapo in 1943, pens her confession to stave off the awful fate promised by her Nazi interrogator. A self-admitted coward who has bargained away bits of information for small comforts, she describes the harrowing brutality of her imprisonment while relating the events leading up to her arrest in France. Her friendship with Maddie Brodatt, a British Civilian pilot, is the focus of her tale. She describes how they met, trained together, and eventually formed a deep bond that would cross cultural boundaries (Julia is a Scottish noblewoman and Maddie is the granddaughter of a bike-shop owner) and stand firm despite grave danger. Enduring torture and endless suffering, Julia remains defiant to the end, when orders come through for her execution. Maddie takes up the story for the last third of the novel, and her account chronicles her efforts to rescue her friend, while also shedding light on the truth about what actually happened after they crash-landed in France together and revealing the heartbreaking depths of Julia’s fortitude and courage. Rich in historical detail, artfully nuanced in the telling, filled with unexpected twists, and peopled with complex characters, Elizabeth Wein’s novel is not only an addictive page-turner and emotionally riveting, it also provides readers with much to contemplate and discuss.
Tales with a Sci-Fi Twist
The son of an out-of-luck gambler, 14-year-old Tom Raines wants more from life than hopping from casino to casino. So when his natural skill as a virtual reality gamer earns him the notice of a U.S. Air Force general—and a position at the Pentagonal Spire—he jumps at the chance. At this elite military academy, he will train to be a Combatant, one of a group of teen warriors selected to remotely pilot the unmanned aircraft that are currently fighting World War III in space. Agreeing to have a neural processor implanted in his brain to enhance both his physical and mental abilities, Tom dives wholeheartedly into the program, where he makes friends, dabbles in an illicit online romance with a recruit from the opposite side, and discovers that he has the unheard-of capability to actually interface with machinery. When it becomes clear that a spy is among them, and Tom is mistakenly charged with treason, he must make tough choices to survive. Set in a world where multinational corporations control politicians, soldiers are viewed as reality-media stars, and humans are grafted to technological devices, Insignia (HarperCollins, 2012; Gr 7 Up) blends a richly imagined reality with gripping suspense and high-octane action. S. J. Kincaid has a knack for creating believable teen dialogue, camaraderie, and emotion, along with a likable protagonist who struggles with flaws yet soars to new heights.
Like Tom, 19-year-old Jackson Miller has an unusual ability—he can make brief jumps back through time. When his girlfriend is fatally shot after a violent struggle, the shock causes him to accidentally jolt back two years. Stuck in 2007, desperately trying to figure out how to return to his own time, he meets and falls in love with Holly all over again. He also begins to uncover the truth about his own identity and that of his father, who is actually a spy, as well as the existence of a secret organization of time-travelers, the Enemies of Time, who will use any means necessary to recruit him to their side. Unsure of whom to trust, Jackson must unravel numerous mysteries, test his own abilities, and ultimately make gut-wrenching choices to save the woman he loves, and possibly the world. A veritable Tempest (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012; Gr 9 Up) of mind-stretching time-travel conundrums, heart-pounding action, and non-stop surprises, Julie Cross’s novel keeps the story grounded with an enthralling plot, well-developed characters, and interpersonal relationships that ring true. Readers will breathlessly await the next installment in the trilogy.
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SCHREIBER, Joe. Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547577388; eBook $10.99. ISBN 9780547677637.
_____. Perry’s Killer Playlist. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547601175; eBook $16.99. ISBN 978054792776-3.
Ea vol: Houghton Mifflin.
MONAGHAN, Annabel. A Girl Named Digit. Houghton Mifflin. 2012.Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547668529; eBook $16.99. ISBN 9780547668949.
WEIN, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Hyperion. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423152194.
KINCAID, S. J. Insignia. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062092991; eBook. $9.99. ISBN 9780062093011.
CROSS, Julie. Tempest. St. Martin’s Griffin/Thomas Dunne. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780312568894; eBook $9.99. ISBN 9781429990592.
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