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Model Spy (The Specialists, #1) by Shannon Greenland

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Synopsis: Brains and Beauty. These are the two words that I would use to describe the book The Specialist #1. 

The novel focuses on 16-year-old Kelly James who is a computer genius that attends East Iowa University. As a favor for her friend David, she hacks into the government computer system in order to retrieve information and is arrested due to this action. In order to avoid being sent to jail, she must become a Specialist for the Information Protection National Concern (IPNC). IPNC is a government special operations division that recruits juveniles who have special skills, are a part of the foster care system, and have been arrested due to using their abilities illegally.

Since Kelly’s parents died in a car crash, she has never lived in a stable environment. She sees IPNC as an opportunity to become part of a family and to be surrounded by teenagers who also have special abilities such as the ability to speak sixteen languages or the capability of manipulating electronics.  During her Specialist training, Kelly is asked to go undercover as a supermodel in order to unearth information that could lead to the location of computer genius Mike Share who has been kidnapped by a Russian mogul. The novel follows Kelly’s escapades during this mission.

Review: The first book in the Model Spy series plays heavily on the fact that the main character Kelly has both ‘beauty and brains.’ Kelly is described as being highly intelligent, clumsy, shy, and gorgeous. The author attempts to highlight the insecurities of the main character and to categorize her as being the antithesis of stereotypical assumptions based on her physical appearance. Yes, there is a morale to the story for the younger readers—don’t judge an individual based on physical appearances. However, despite its underlying message, I found the book to be at times too simplistic and unrealistic.

In the beginning of the novel, Kelly discovers that she was arrested due to the actions of her friend David who manipulated her into hacking into the government system and who also happens to be a recruiter for the Specialist program. For maybe about ten pages of the book, Kelly admits that she distrusts David for deceiving her, but because he is good-looking and she believes that he is somewhat remorseful for his actions, she immediately forgives him and at times actively pursues him romantically.

I have to admit that ‘several years’ have passed since I’ve been a typical 16-year-old.  However, I would still like to believe that a 16-year-old would be less compliant after finding out that she was betrayed by someone that she considered to be her friend and would be a little bit more hesitant before accepting an offer to work for a system that sometimes manipulates children in order to force them to become a Specialist. But, this may not be the case.  A young adult fiction book can be exaggerated to some degree, but I still believe that there still needs to be some elements of realism within the story in order to allow the reader to develop some type of believability factor towards the actions of the characters.

Over the past few years, I have begun reading more Young Adult books. I tend to find that these books have more imagination, a better plot, and sometimes a variance of layers when it comes to character development. As being the first book in the Model Spy series, I found The Specialist #1 to be quite satisfying. It’s a quick read and, despite its unbelievability factor, it’s a cute story. I think that younger readers might thoroughly enjoy it; but the older ones might end up scratching their heads at the end and questioning ‘what has just happened?'
Rating: 3/5 DIAMONDS
Reviewed by: Heather
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