The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

August 21, 2011

Cari Boatright Rerat, book review: Vivid characters make for compelling teen reads

JOPLIN, Mo. — ‘The Agency: A Spy in the House’     

By Y.S. Lee --Teen fiction

By age 12, Mary Quinn is a convicted criminal. Living as an orphan on the streets of Victorian London has made her criminal behavior necessary for her survival.

When the book opens, Mary is on trial for breaking into someone’s home. She’ found guilty and sentenced to death. Just before her sentence is carried out, Mary is rescued and hidden by a group of women who operate Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls.

Five years after her rescue, Mary learns that the school isn’t just any ordinary school but a cover for the Agency, a network of secret agents who infiltrate the lives of suspected criminals in order to gather enough information to prosecute those criminals. The Agency hires only women and girls because no one expects much from them, and they are able to operate largely unnoticed and underestimated by society.

Mary’s first assignment as an agent is to gather information about Mr. Thorold’s missing cargo ships. She must discover if they are actually missing, if he is using the “missing” ships to smuggle illegal material and how he is able to accomplish all of this.

She is hired into the Thorold home as a companion for the Thorolds’ self-absorbed daughter who is about Mary’s age. Little does Mary know, nothing is what it seems in the Thorold house.

This series opener is a fast, light read full of Victorian intrigue and just enough swoon to keep romantics coming back for more. Mary is a smartly drawn character who is not afraid to speak her mind, especially when it comes to the handsome Mr. James Easton.

The mystery is simple enough, but not so much so that readers will have everything figured out before Mary does. Even if they do, they won’t mind a bit. The character interactions and Mary’s back story will keep readers entertained and eager to read the sequel, “The Body at the Tower.”

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A new provision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows qualifying districts with high percentages of students on food assistance to allow all students to eat free breakfasts and lunches. Would you agree with this provision?

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