City Spies

S. & S./Aladdin. (City Spies: Bk. 1). Mar. 2020. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534414914.
Gr 4-8–This promising new spy fiction series features a diverse team of orphans, each named for the city from which they hail, brought together under the secret auspices of MI5 by a nattily dressed, fast-talking British male agent they call “Mother.” This first title follows the recruitment of a 12-year-old Latina girl named Sara, aka Brooklyn, whose mastery of computer hacking proves to be only one of many clever skills she brings to the team. Relying on short, distinct scenes filled with snappy dialogue, multiple viewpoints, settings in a variety of globally important and glamorous cities, and some key well-foreshadowed reveals, Ponti is clearly drawing from his career as a television producer. A disappointingly small amount of action, humor, character development, or even spying happens in this first book, although the heroes do indeed uncover and thwart one evil plan. However, the backstories of the intriguing characters, the emerging relationships among them, and the promise of more to come will no doubt hook fans of such books as Gordon Korman’s Masterminds or Beth McMullen’s Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls. 
VERDICT A cinematic and well-crafted start to a new spy series for middle grades.

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