(Note: Part of this post is taken from a previous entry.)
You might have read her already, but Ally is the author of some great, clean mystery reads for middle grades and lower high school readers. These series are empowering, fresh, and funny. Any girl, especially, will have a hard time not liking these mysteries! And, they’re so good, they’re hard to put down!
Gallagher Girls Series:
The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is not your typical private school, although it does produce very intelligent young ladies with certain, um…unique skills. Espionage skills, that is. Cammie Morgan is one of these young ladies. Together with her best friends, Rebecca ‘Bex’ Baxter, Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Sutton and Macey McHenry, they go through high school learning about their future jobs as spies, but they also learn a lot about love, friendship, survival, trust, and determination. Although they each have their own particular gifts, using them together makes this foursome hard to beat, and, in the end, they just might be responsible for saving the world. Read this series and find out!
I loved this series! The characters seemed well thought-out and they all struggle with something that other teens will identify with. Since the focus is mainly on Cammie, she has issues with trusting her mom and finding out who her dad really was. Being spies, everything is on a “need to know” basis and Cammie doesn’t have “high-enough clearance.” As such, she has to learn a lot of things on her own, including how to solve her own problems, generally. This is not to say there is parent bashing, not at all! The adults in this story have their own battles, but they are absolutely trying to protect and support the teens. Another thing that has been pointed out with this series is basically how there isn’t much background and credibility to their extraordinary claims of skill. Of course, this series is NOT a guide about how to do spy tricks like arming and disarming bombs or hacking into the CIA’s servers, etc. It neither will say about how to kill a man with a piece of uncooked spaghetti (a very real claim). Why? I shouldn’t have to state it, but we don’t really want teens learning that actual information from a fictional book. Wouldn’t want the CIA/FBI asking some nasty questions, right? Mmmmkay.
Heist Society Series:
Katerina Bishop wanted to escape the family business to be a normal teenage girl, but when her best friend Hale gets her suspended from school, she has nowhere else to go. He did it for her own good though, as her father’s been accused of stealing a priceless collection of art from a mob boss. Kat must clear his name by proving someone else is the bandit and find the art all in two weeks or lose and sign her father’s death sentence. Luckily she has help, but will Kat’s crew succeed? This is a fast-paced adventure/thriller/mystery that takes the reader across the globe and guessing of what will come next!
In this next installment of Kat Bishop, she has gained a bit of fame (and maybe a big head) with the previous heist. Now she has been asked to steal the Cleopatra Emerald, an extremely famous gem that is thought to be jinxed (no one has ever succeeded in plans to steal it), and return it to its rightful owners. In her quest to steal for good rather than for evil, Kat believes she cannot back down from the challenge, but it proves to be harder than she thinks as her crew is wary of the emerald’s curse, it is extremely well-protected, and something just isn’t quite right about the whole thing…
This time our favorite thieves are defending one of their own. W.W. Hale the Fifth has just been named the heir-in-trust to his recently deceased grandmother’s billion-dollar company and the lawyer has been named as his trustee. For Hale it is a nasty shock back to his past, and yet he is devastated at the passing of his grandmother for she was the only family member whom he liked. Kat doesn’t want to intrude, but when Hale’s loyal butler, Marcus, asks for Kat’s help, she can’t refuse. What a revelation Marcus has, too! He says his sister Marianne was supposed to be in the will, as she was Mrs. Hale’s lady’s maid for many years and they were very close. Kat fears Hale is being conned, but she can’t tell him because it could destroy his faith at being his grandmother’s most trusted relative. Plus, he’s not acting like her Hale; he’s someone named Scooter. It’s a high-stakes job, and Kat has to find out the truth, even if it could mean losing her best friend and love forever.
I found this series to be extremely fast-paced and well-researched, but perfect for middle grade readers with overall content including emotional situations, depth of learning, easy reading, etc. Older readers (upper high school and above) will find that it needs a certain suspension of belief (in other words, it needs a broad imagination) that is much easier at younger ages. Still, it is quite entertaining, and the characters are fun if only moderately developed, i.e. I would certainly enjoy more description about the characters and their relationships/histories. However, one point in favor of this series is that it draws well on classical learning (or a lot of the things you are supposed to learn in world history about cultures, art, etc.). I found my collegiate education in humanities to be a great asset in reading this series and fleshing out some of the hidden clues (much like The Da Vinci Code was for adult readers…in fact, that’s a great comparison!). Most of all though, you are just along for the ride! Rating: Great reads! Must read for younger teen readers!
Last year she also announced she’s writing another series called Embassy Row set to be released sometime in 2015. More about Ally? Go to her site!