Because I’m so proud that I finally finished reading this series of books I’ve been trying to read since I was ~11, I’ve decided to give you a review of them. Also, I can’t come up with anything else to write about this week.
Spy X is a four-part series written by Peter Lerangis, and aimed at 10 to 12 year olds. The four books are called The Code, Hide And Seek, Proof Positive and Tunnel Vision, however I’m going to just refer to them as book 1, 2, 3, and 4, so it’s a bit easier to follow. As you can tell from the title, these books are about spies. More specifically, they’re about secret government organisations, conspiracies, missing persons, adventure, danger, code-cracking, strong female characters, and parental love. As always, I’ll try and keep this review pretty spoiler free, so that I don’t wreck the story for you, as I wouldn’t have wanted it spoiled for me.
So, you’re probably wondering why I’m reading little kiddy books, and calling it an achievement. Well, it’s because I’ve been trying to get my hands on all four books for years now, ever since I read the first one back in grade 5. I only finally bought the last one online from America late the year before last. I tried to read the last book last year, but it didn’t make any sense because it had been so long since I’d last read them. So this week, I read the whole series again. I didn’t do it in one sitting; I didn’t even read one whole book in one sitting, but I read them in quick enough secession that it was like one complete book.
And it basically is. The series is one continuous story, with each book follows on directly from the last; Book 2 starts a few weeks after Book 1’s ending, Book 3 starts in the exact same moment Book 2 ended, and Book 4 starts the moment Book 3 ended. The series follows the lives of Andrew and Evie, a pair of twins whose parents both work for different secretive government organisations. On a very special day, their 11th birthday, their mother goes missing leaving nothing but a cryptic note. Months and several relocations later, out of the blue, they receive a package filled with spy gear and encoded clues to help them find and save their Mum (Mom), and the books chronicle their journey and adventure to find her.
The series gels together well, however they’re not perfectly consistent. Book 3 sees somewhat of a change in writing style from the first two books, with a higher level of detail and descriptiveness being used, fleshing out the reality of the story and telling you information you didn’t realise that you didn’t know. There are also a few minor contradictions in Book 3 compared to Book 2, but they don’t really matter at all. On the other hand, I found one in Book 4, which is tied to a fairly significant plot point for that book. It’s not big, so you’ll be lucky to spot it, but it really frustrated me because it wasn’t right.
Another problem of reading all the books together is that, like any series, there is a fair amount of repetition in each book, to remind you of what’s happened before and what’s happening now. This stuff got really annoying by Book 3, and by Book 4 some of the reinforcing of themes like “It’s a code, we can crack this” were feeling strained. If this was a single book, you’d get rid of half of that stuff and it’d be fine, but they’re separate so it has to stay.
Being all about spies, these books contained lots of codes and secret messages. One of my favourite parts was cracking the codes along with the characters, or even before them. They are presented really well, laid out in full for you read through and try your hand at deciphering. It sort of reminded me of a 2-minute mystery book in that way. Because the characters are only new to this, the books do a good job of walking you though the whole code-breaking thing so that you build up the skills. I felt it was better done in Book 1 and 2, with the codes in Book 3 and 4 being either a bit too obvious or too complicated, with no middle ground.
The books are quite well written, with lots of little mentions or references that make the book really feel real. Some of them are quite American, and all the locations are in America, but it doesn’t subtract from the engrossingness of the story. For me at least, it’s one of those novels that I’d love to visit the places that are being mentioned in the text, and see what they’re talking about. There are also elements in this text that are quite unexpected and somewhat complex, that I don’t think the target audience would pick up on, or understand. So I’m actually happy that I read it now, so that I can pick up on all that, and understand the full intricacies of the story.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading, and rereading, these books. I’m so happy that I finally got to complete the series, and that I now know how it all goes together. I really had fun playing spy with the characters as I read, and while I didn’t like the last two as much, they still engaged me with story and mystery like the other two.
Have you read any of the Spy X series, or any other books by Peter Lerangis? What did you think? Did it live up to your expectations? Have I said anything you disagree with? Tell me & everyone else who passes through here what you think in the comment below.