Thursday, August 20, 2009

I, Q by Roland Smith - review

I, Q by Roland Smith Book One: Independence Hall

Hold on to your butts, as Samuel L. Jackson says when he tries to reboot an entire island. And don't try to read this one if you're at all sleepy - Roland Smith has written a spy novel (the first in a series), and he is NOT kidding around!

Our story opens as teenage Q (short for Quest) and Angela become brand-new step-siblings, the children of two single-parent musicians who have found each other, fallen in love, and become massive rock stars at a fairly late stage in life. (Which is kind of a nice bone to throw the middle-aged reader - I had fun imagining Patty Smith as Q's mom and John Doe as Angela's dad. Shouldn't Patty Smith and John Doe fall in love and go on tour?)

Anyway. The new family embarks on a cross-country tour in a luxury bus, but when a crusty old roadie shows up by the side of the road and turns out to be a freelance secret agent intent on protecting Angela from people who want to use her as leverage against her allegedly dead biological mother, a Secret Service agent killed by a suicide bomber at Independence Hall... (remember to breathe)... they realize that their trip is going to be even stranger (and possibly longer) than anything rock and roll could have thrown their way.

I think that sometimes people underestimate how much complexity kids can take. Yes, much of the plot of I, Q hinges on who knows what, when they know it, and how they know it - but that's spycraft for you. The 39 Clues series is similarly sinuous, plot-wise, and also works in missing parents, a boy-girl team, and an overall sense of Trust No-one. Any kid who goes for that series will lap up I, Q like fizzy pink lemonade.

Action, secret identities, shifting alliances, interesting locations (the next one's set in the White House!), groovy rock-star perks (Q can get tickets to the hottest show in town for people who help them), and, most of all, quick-witted cool kids who can think for themselves put this book right up there with the Alex Rider series and other "realistic" adventure novels such as The London Eye Mystery and the Young Bond Series.

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