The girls on the squad don't just represent the school and lead the charge for school spirit - they are also The Squad (note the capital letters) an elite squad of government operatives who go places where they will not be suspected. Wait, sounds familiar right? Teen operatives working under the adult radar to collect evidence, evade the bad guys, and save the day - but you have never seen teen operatives like these before. In a matter of days Toby is preened and prepped to become part of The Squad - both on the cheerleading pyramid and on the streets of Bayport tracking down some missing intelligence and trying to infiltrate the "lair" of the bad guys. It is an interesting couple of days, and Toby is slowly coming to realise that cheerleaders are not just blonde airheads who shake their pom poms - they are also some very slick operators who could show the adults a thing or two!
I always enjoy reading authors who are able to work across several genre, especially if they work across those different genre well - and Jennifer Lynn Barnes has made a very slick and polished move with the first book in The Squad series. Toby is a lovable anti-hero who seems to spend most of the first part of the book in shocked disbelief about what is lurking in the halls of Bayport High, and the fact that the cheerleaders are not the airheads she thought they were. It is a culture shock, especially when she discovers the secret skills hidden under each perfect hairdo and the perfect make up. There are the expected clichés but they are palatable and lead to some seriously laugh out loud moments for Toby and the situations around her - they are not overworked clichés and may be less cliché for younger readers who have not read quite as widely as I do.
The teen spy/agent genre is well and truly alive thanks to ground-breaking characters like Alex Rider and James Adams - so it is a challenge to create a new angle and Barnes has done a very good job of carving out her own little niche in this world. Her characters are well developed, although at times I had a little trouble keeping some of the characters that were more in the background straight - but I have to confess that was more me than the book I think (read here that I was a little distracted while reading parts of the book). I look forward to reading the second book in the series to see what happens next for Toby and the team - especially because it feels as though there is a little undercurrent happening with the story that may lead to something interesting....
If you like this book then try:
- Bad kitty by Michele Jaffe
- All-American girl by Meg Cabot
- Heist society by Ally Carter
- Model spy by Shannon Greenland
- A girl named Digit by Annabel Monahgan
- Nickel plated by Aric Davis
- Burning blue by Paul Griffin
Reviewed by Brilla