Sunday, September 13, 2015

Book Review: The League of Unexceptional Children by Gitty Daneshvari

I had an opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley. This review is based on uncorrected advance content. 

The main characters in this fun spy novel, Jonathan and Shelley, are selected to be part of a secret network of spies because they are extremely ordinary kids. When they are brought to the headquarters of The League of Unexceptional Children, Hammett Humphries, the chief of the operation, explains the rationale behind it:

"We are a covert network of spies comprised of this country's most average and forgettable kids. Why average? Why not the brainiacs? Or the athletes? Or the beauty queens? Well, people remember those kids. They remember their names, their faces. They notice them when they walk into a room and they notice them when they walk out of a room. They are people with a footprint, a paper trail, an identity. But not you guys. You are the forgotten ones. You spend your days reintroducing yourself to kids you've known since preschool. And when people call on you, on the rare occasion it happens, they never call you by the right name. And you know why? Because you blend in. You are right there in the world's blind spot."

And so, these two unlikely spies are given a crucial mission. The Vice President of the United States has been kidnapped. The VP has the codes to the mainframe computer system of all of the essential parts of our country's government. The security of America hangs in the balance. There's no time for training, so Jonathan and Shelley are given an agent's handbook, called How to Make Great Popcorn in the Microwave (so no one would even be tempted to pick it up and read it). Aside from the book, they have to rely on their own instincts and judgment.

I enjoyed that the characters seem to have a great sense of humor about the situation in which they find themselves. I also like that they both rise to the situation, even though their selection is not based on positive qualities. They do the best they can in the hopes that they can become exceptional in their ability to be average and blend in.

Middle grade readers who enjoy spy stories would probably enjoy this book. There's lots of action, funny support characters, and school-based humor. Middle grade readers will probably be able to relate to a lot of the novel. There are lots of characters that are introduced and side plots and circumstances that might be confusing to some kids, but I still think this would be a fun book to have in my classroom library.

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