Spy School - Stuart Gibbs
My cards on the table: Stuart Gibbs' Spy School is a lot of fun. It's a fun read and even though its target audience is children 8 to 12, there's enough there to interest adults.

Spy School is the story of Benjamin Ripley, a 12 year old boy who has a knack at math. He is visited by a secret agent who invites Ben to join the CIA Academy of Espionage. He excitedly accepts and his parents approve his attending an elite "science school" across the river in Washington DC. From the moment he enter the campus main building, Ben is the target of ninjas, secret agents, double agents, and kids looking for a hacker to dole out good grades. Ben soon learns that he isn't so much spy material as he is bait, to hopefully reveal a mole in the school's community.

Gibbs packs oodles of spy references amongst a colorful band of teenage characters. The main characters are fleshed out well, while the supporting cast fill in the mise-en-scene nicely. The story is set at a brisk pace and keeps the plot concise and focused, without too much in the way of layering subplots. After all, this story is aimed at the pre-teen reader.

I think the one aspect of the story that caught me off guard was the spy references that I felt would be beyond the young reader. For example, at one point, when Ben is labeled a "Fleming" it's meant to refer to his belief in the spy ideal within popular culture - James Bond. Now, I know that James Bond is pervasive in our cultural fabric, even at a teen level, however it is not often that Ian Fleming's name is brought up as being associated with James Bond. It's not like the new film trailers say "James Bond, the Ian Fleming created British Secret Agent" in the movie's tagline. I feel led to believe that this and others I found sprinkled throughout the book are more for the enjoyment of the adult reader who may be reading the story to their child.

Gibbs has written two more novels in this series: Spy Camp and Evil Spy School.