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Always Have a Plan B

Rule Number Three: Trust Your Instincts

Always Have a Plan B

BOOK REPORT for Mabel Opal Pear and the Rules for Spying by Amanda Hosch

Cover Story: Rule Number 6: Don't Stand Out
Drinking Buddy: Rule Number 32: The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend
Testosterone Estrogen Level: Rule Number 15: Be In Control
Talky Talk: Rule 22: He Who Talks First Loses
Bonus Factor: Rules
Bromance Status: Rule 25: Never Leave a Fellow Agent Behind

Cover Story: Rule Number 6: Don't Stand Out

The Nancy Drew cover makes the stakes seem a little lower than they actually are in the book. In fact, my daughter, Sophie, declined to co-review this book with me after reading the title. But as Mabel knows, you don't want to stand out. Make everyone think you're just a goofy tween girl out bird watching with your friend. Also, props for not sexualizing the middle school protagonist.

The Deal:

Mabel Opal is just a typical Washington State middle school student. She enjoys nature hikes with her friend Stanley and reading. Sure, her parents and her Aunt Gertie run a spoon museum of all things, but everyone's mom and dad is a tad odd.

Except her family isn't normal. Her grandparents were notorious smugglers. And her parents are spies. Honest to goodness, James Bond-type spies. They're frequently called off to remote corners of the world to save the day. And while they don't go into great detail with their daughter, they don't hide what they do, either. In fact, they're training Mabel in the family business.

But one morning, all that changes. Mabel's parents are gone, without observing the protocol explaining where they'd be and how to contact them. Aunt Gertie has been thrown in jail on trumped up smuggling charges. To make things worse, Frank and Stella, her Dursley-esque uncle and aunt have moved in, bringing their bratty daughter Victoria with them. They're making themselves at home, stealing Mabel's mother's jewelry and treating Victoria as the queen of the house.

What's going on? Mabel better figure things out soon, before her aunt and uncle make a claim on the family museum.

Drinking Buddy: Rule Number 32: The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend

Mabel wasn't one of those heroines who finds herself suddenly overwhelmed but rises to the occasion. No, she knew this day would come. She's been trained. She's prepared.

All the same, she's still in middle school, cannot contact her parents' fellow agents, and is worried like heck about her family. A nice blend of novice and seasoned professional.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: Rule Number 15: Be In Control

When I heard the term 'Spoon museum' I figured this would be a lighthearted book. And it was. Kind of. But there were enough kidnappings, jailbreaks, armed bad guys, and sleepover drama that I felt satisfied.

Talky Talk: Rule 22: He Who Talks First Loses

I'm not super duper into scrappy young heroes, but I'll make an exception for Mabel. There aren't enough books with smart female characters who accomplish things on their own. This wasn't a team effort, it was pretty much all Mabel, which I found refreshing.

But damn, her aunt an uncle were so obnoxious I felt like bathing after reading this book.

Bonus Factor: Rules

Mabel frequently quotes her 36 Rules for Spying (there's a full list at the end of the book). According to the author, these are based on the Moscow Rules, a set of cold war directives that may or may not have been real. Kids'll get a kick out of this.

Bromance Status: Rule 25: Never Leave a Fellow Agent Behind

Though I was slow to review you (I read this in the summer), I haven't forgotten you. I'll be sure to get you in the hands of other readers. Got your back.

FTC Full Disclosure: I can neither confirm nor deny that I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Capstone Young Readers. If I did receive an ARC, however, I can confirm that I received neither money nor antique spoons.

 

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.