I took a moment to curl up with The Unknown Spy (The Ring of Five series) by Eoin McNamee. I couldn’t resist this title because the idea of a young spy made me recall series Alex Rider and Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls. Would this title become a favorite of middle schoolers and my avid 4th grade readers?
I hate coming in to a series with the second title, but I think McNamee brought me up to speed quickly. He left enough juicy hints that I have to seek out the first book in the series during the holidays. The first chapter captured my attention as Danny Caulfield leaped into action to help save his “parents”. I enjoyed the author’s showing us Danny’s thought processes as he put his spy skills to work during danger.
While I read The Unknown Spy, I found myself contemplating betrayal, treachery, and how we define being good at something. If we are good at spying, lying, and tricking others, isn’t this a good thing for a spy? As I read, I was distancing myself from Danny. He wasn’t a goodie-two-shoes character that perfectly spurred all evil and virtuously did only good as he solved the mystery. His methods and relationships were not the typical style of a youth in an adventure title. He was moody, untrustworthy, and sometimes unlikable. Yet, I read on and was compelled to find out what happened to the supporting characters. Those, I liked. As I read, I realized I didn’t have to like the main character to read on.
The betrayal and secrecy of Danny’s parents throughout the beginning of this title led me to mind-wandering down a path. Suddenly I was listing all the titles I’ve ever read where a youth discovers his parents aren’t what he (or she) thought them to be. Aha! This was a rite of passage, a mark of growing up, a sign for a title of bildungsromans. A child must separate from their parents to begin the journey to adulthood. Most titles allow emotional growth of the youth to eventually reunite or come to peace with their parents. Will Danny have a relationship with his “parents” in the future? We are left to wonder. I’ll be impatiently waiting for the next title in this series to see if Danny becomes a lovable character or if his treacherous spy self overcomes the good side.