Liberty: The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me

400p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062421999.
Gr 10 Up—Paige is a college student who has had anything but a typical life. Her journalist parents ensured she learned five languages, earned a black belt in martial arts, and acquired a healthy skepticism of American involvement in international affairs. Paige's distrust of the government is heightened with the disappearance of her parents, who were captured by terrorists. Are they even still alive? Paige may have been given the chance to find out. The catch? She is to become a spy, fly to Russia, and get close to Sean Raynes, a whistle-blower for America's spying program. The assignment gets complicated when the two begin to fall into a real relationship, only for the protagonist to discover that her ultimate directive is to kill Sean. The ending is left open for a sequel. Audiences will appreciate the multilayered plot and cultural references. Paige's misadventures through training and missions keep readers turning pages in this fast-paced spy drama. Dialogue is fresh and funny, lending an authentic voice to the unexpected heroine. No enemy is safe from Paige's brains, wit, and heart of gold. Portes deftly weaves a story of an unlikely spy, and readers will be convinced that being recruited by a top-secret government agency for a potentially deadly international mission is possible—and totally fun. Fans of Libba Bray will enjoy the sharp banter and eclectic cultural observations.
VERDICT An entertaining girl-power, kick-butt, espionage romp that belongs in all libraries.—Carrie Finberg, South Park High School, PA
Paige Nolan is not your typical Bryn Mawr student. The daughter of prize-winning journalists who were kidnapped in Syria and are now presumed dead, Paige hides her grief (and dissociative disorder) behind a tough-as-nails, snarky-as-hell exterior. She's also a martial arts expert who, in a scene-setting vignette at the start of the book, disables two machine gun-toting good ol' boys at an Applebee's. After the footage appears on social media, Paige is approached by a campus recruiter who turns out to be part of a secret government spy agency. She reluctantly joins up, in exchange for information about her parents' whereabouts, and is sent to Russia to befriend and/or seduce Sean Raynes, an Edward Snowden-type character. Paige relates the story to an offstage "you," and her voice is wry, acerbic, and occasionally vulnerable as she describes the places and people around her, from her three college non-boyfriends to a Russian crime lord and his fashion-forward wife to the two highly amusing frenemies she makes in Russia. Suspend your disbelief (like, majorly) and go along for the twisty ride in this smart, humor-laced, girl-spy adventure romance, first in a projected series. elissa gershowitz

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