Book Review: Spy School Project X

Spy School Project X by Stuart Gibbs

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This book is a fairly good book – however, it definitely isn’t as good as some of the previous Spy School books. The plot basically revolves around Murray Hill – the nemesis of the main character, Ben Ripley – posting lies about Ben on the internet under the name Agent X (a mysterious top-level agent at the CIA) accusing him of being at the center of a conspiracy as well as putting a bounty of $20 million on Ben’s head to try and get him killed. And to make things worse, people are actually buying Murray’s lies, absurd as they seem, and even expanding on them! Not only do they believe Ben is part of a plot to overthrow the government; they also believe that Ben’s a lizard alien! Ben has to try to find Murray and get him to clear his name and remove the bounty before it’s too late. And it’s not just assassins that are hunting Ben down – so are Joshua Hallal, Ashley Sparks, and Warren Reeves – all former members of the evil organization SPYDER, which Ben helped destroy.

So most of the book is basically Ben trying to figure out where Murray is and running away from bad guys. This really makes the book a lot less interesting and suspenseful – there were no big plot twists unless you count when Ben realizes that Joshua is actually after Murray, not him. However, that’s nowhere near as big as the revelations Ben normally makes where he figures out Murray/SPYDER’s evil genius plot that I never saw coming. I didn’t really like the ending either – Erica and Ben get Murray to try to clear Ben’s name but him telling the truth only causes people to believe his original lies even more (people believe Agent X has been brainwashed and that Ben is behind the brainwashing). So, in the end, a lot of people still believe Ben is an alien trying to overthrow the government. Usually, Spy School endings leave some sort of obstacle/challenge still present for Ben but he also has some sort of victory. However, in this case, there doesn’t seem to be much of a victory, which I highly disliked. Okay, enough criticism of this book – it does deserve some praise! As with the other Spy School books, this book is told through Ben’s perspective so we get to see everything through the eyes of a 13 year old boy.

Stuart Gibbs does a great job of not making Ben seem too mature for his age and Ben’s hilarious humor does make me laugh! Also, Gibbs does a great job keeping the book light, even while there are so many people hunting Ben down, making it a lot less intense (I really do appreciate this).

Finally, there’s some aspects of this book that I’m not sure whether I like or dislike. First, Erica Hale was always depicted as doing everything spy-related perfectly in previous books but in this book, Erica actually starts to doubt herself when she fails Ben, which is so unlike her! This change definitely made her seem more human but Erica was always known for being so UNhuman that it just seems kind of weird. Also, Ben has had a crush on Erica this whole series, but Erica used to think that relationships were too messy for spies so they never actually became a thing. But, in the previous book, Spy School at Sea, Erica realized that she may have been wrong and agreed to try a relationship with Ben. So now Ben and Erica are a thing and on the one hand, I’m glad that Ben is with Erica now because he deserves it, but on the other hand, it’s another sign of Erica starting to change in a way that I’m not sure I like. Overall, this is not a terrible book but it just doesn’t have the same spark as the previous Spy School books.

-Review by Teen Volunteer, 9/08/22

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