Book review: Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

IMG_18274 out of 5 Stars

My husband isn’t a big reader, however my son is. One thing I love about my husband is that he does is a lot of research. He researches load of things that might be interesting to him, but he also looks into things that might not, especially if my son or I really love something. We usually benefit because when he knows we like something he looks for more of it for us and loads us up. And while he isn’t a fan of reading for pleasure, he loves listening to stories when we read and he makes sure we have plenty of good stories around. He is awesome like that!

Recently, he found the book “Spy School” written by Stuart Gibbs. We have been reading a lot of fantasy books (i.e. Harry Potter, Eragon, Percy Jackson, etc.) and have been feeling like we needed a little bit of a break and a new genre and this really seemed to hit the mark. Currently there are 3 books in the series with a fourth, “Spy Ski School”, releasing this October (2016 – can’t wait for this one, especially since we are a family of skiers!). These books are mid-level readers suggested for kids 8-12 years old.

I have to admit when I first read the reviews I was a little bit worried because people said this book was great but had tons of swearing, including an f-bomb. I found that to be a little strange considering the book was meant for kids 8-12, so we decided to get the book and I would read it first and decide whether it would be OK for my nearly 9-year-old. I found 4 cases of the word “ass” (or a variation of the word) used, but no f-bomb. The closest I found was “mucked” (as in “he really mucked it up”) which wasn’t a big deal for me. I have listed the examples and page numbers below in case you want to see their use, but I am OK with this amount of swearing and we have had conversations about use of words and appropriateness. Just wanted to mention this so you can make the best choice for your family.

The book starts out with our lead character Benjamin Ripley coming home from school. He is 12 years old and has to deal with the usual “12-year-old things” like bullies and pretty girls who don’t know he exists. He is gifted at math and can calculate crazy numbers in his head and does really well in school without really trying. His best friend Mike has been his best friend since Kindergarten and they look out for each other. When he gets home from school one day in the winter a spy is waiting for him on his couch. The spy tells Ben that his name is Alexander Hale and that Ben he is being recruited for a special spy school for kids. He is being recruited because of his smarts they really want him. When his parents get home from work they talk about it and decide he can go. He is whisked off to school that night and as they pull up to the school a massive ambush takes place and it is out of the frying pan into the fire! The story progresses where they have to solve the mystery of the mole all the while attempting to be a spy even though it is his first year and he has no experience.

The premise of the story was fun and moves quickly. I like that the story is told from a boy’s perspective, but there is a strong female character in the book. She is pretty, but also smart and tough! I really liked Erica a lot. She brings really good balance to the plot and he brings out her softer side, which is something many don’t get to see.

As soon as my son finishes one of the 7 books he is in the middle of, he will get to start on this series and he can not wait. Meanwhile, I am going to start on the second book “Spy Camp” and see what Ben and Erica get up to this time!


The swearing in the book:

  • Pg 26 – “landed on my ass”
  • Pg 97 – “He kicked an assassin’s ass last night
  • Pg 158 – “…and then try to kick your ass.”
  • Pg 229 – “…lets them cover their asses.”

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