Jenna’s Letter Essay #3: Spy School

I have recently finished reading the 290 page Mystery book called “Spy School”. “Spy School” is by the author Stuart Gibbs, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but moved to Washington DC when he was five, after moving to San Antonio, Texas at age 7 and staying there until he graduated high school Gibbs now lives in Los Angeles where he now lives with his wife and Dashiell and Violet, his two kids. Gibbs has written screenplays, worked on animated films, and even developed TV shows for channels like Disney Channel, ABC, and more! “Spy School” was originally published on March 6, 2012 and has two sequels, “Spy Camp” and “Evil Spy School”. I chose to read this book because reading the back it seemed interesting and i needed a book to read, so I just grabbed it and tried it. I thought this book was pretty good, it had different twists and turns that made me want to keep reading, but it got just a tiny bit boring once or twice.

“Spy School” is about a 12 year old kid named Ben Ripley, who is, for what people know, excepted into a spy school for his straight A’s, level 16 math skills, and a cryptograph talent he doesn’t even know he has, let alone what cryptography is. After realizing, with the help from a fellow spy school student- Erica, that he excipients into the academy was all false and he was being used as bait to catch a “mole” infiltrating the school he wants to prove his worth and goes on a secret mission with Erica trying to catch the person in the act. Benjamin starts paying attention to his more surroundings and keeps a close eye on a few people- one boy in particular. But, once Ben is kidnapped the tables turn and people start pointing fingers at different people, but none of them are correct except for Ben. With the help from Ben’s best friend, a teacher that isn’t as dumb as he acts, and a couple spy school students Ben gets to the bottom of things and ends up locked in a room with an unconscious student and a ticking bomb made out of his own alarm clock…

The book is told in the perspective of Ben. I think that perspective in a book can make a very big difference because different characters know different things, and especially in a mystery novel, many characters know things and are hiding stuff that they know from other characters. If this book was narrated by another person, such as the principle of the school, he would have already know about the real reason why Ben was brought into the academy and wouldn’t have had to figure it out by being woken up from sleep the middle of the night by a fellow student who broke into his room to be told what was actually going on. I say that the genre of this book is mystery because mystery novels are said to often have a death or crime to be solved, and in this book there is a person committing crimes, such as breaking into Ben’s room and kidnapping him. There is a mystery that has to be solved: Who is this double agent? I wish that the author made the “mole” seem like a different person for a longer time, because for most of the book signs were pointing to one person, but then near the very end, another person seems “suspicious”, but that person is only thought to be the actual mole for about five minutes in the book before Ben realizes who it actually is. It would have been even more of a surprise if there was a lot of “evidence” to back up why the (second) person is a mole, and then have ben realize who the actual “mole” is- it would have been even more surprising to go from thinking that someone is guilty for a long time, then thinking someone else is guilty for a little bit of time and then figuring out who’s guilty instead of thinking someone is guilty for a really long time, then thinking it’s someone else for about 5 minutes then figuring out who actually is guilty.

The following passage is quoted when Ben is taken to a “security room” by a spy all people at the academy look up to- Alexander Hale. Alexander was having some trouble getting through all the security, as it was malfunctioning- but he finally got it and now both Ben and ALexander Hale are stepping into the room.

“Although it hadn’t been an auspicious beginning, I had to admit the room felt safe. I could now see that the door was nearly a foot thick with a dead bolt as big as a tyrannosaurus femur. The room was surrounded by imposing cement walls plated with steel. When the door slammed shut again, it felt as though we were encased in an iron womb.
Along one wall was a panel of twelve video monitors linked to the campus security camera system. Two CIA agents sat at computer terminals before the panel, which allowed them to bring up the live feed from any camera they wished. Two more agents- one of whom had just opened the door for us- flanked the entrance from the inside. Within the room itself were two more computer terminals and passage to another area.” (page 191-192)

I was interested in this passage because it shows one thing that Stuart Gibbs includes through a lot of this book- snapshots and elaborate scene description. I like this about his writing because i think that it helps me understand the story more and actually “get” what’s going on. If Gibbs didn’t add in that this was a giant room, and didn’t add in that comparison of the room and “an iron womb”, or how there were computer terminals, i would have thought this was some old secret abandoned room in the middle of nowhere with no one inside of it. Snapshots and scene description are very important in writing and can help make a story a lot more easier to understand.

I rate this book a 7 or 8 out of 10 because it was pretty good, but I didn’t feel like it was that great. It held my interest and had an interesting plot, but I didn’t have a longing to read it as much as some other books I’ve read. People who really like mystery novels and plots that have a real twist would like this book.

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3 thoughts on “Jenna’s Letter Essay #3: Spy School

  1. You have a very detailed letter essay and you wrote a great descriptive summary. You reflected on this book very well and I liked the passage you quoted.

  2. You have a nicely detailed and clear letter essay. I liked how you gave background information to back up your ideas, for example, how you told your audience what made up a mystery novel and why “Spy School” is a mystery novel.

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