Jake Highfield: Chaos Unleashed by Alec Sillifant
|Jake Highfield: Chaos Unleashed by Alec Sillifant|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: This thriller of a teenage agent and the trials and tribulations when he's faced with something too mysterious comes with a healthy dose of masculine muscle.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: March 2009|
|Publisher: Meadowside Children's Books|
What's this that Jake is doing - breaking into a building? Vandalising it with graffiti, having ruined someone's privacy and infiltrated something he shouldn't have done? Three years ago he would have been doing this as a yobbish kick, but now he's a teenage agent of a shadowy organisation called the Academy, and people want him to succeed in his mission. But do they all want that? Who are his taskmasters after all? And what does the Void have in store for his future?
I didn't really lick my lips at yet another teenage espionage book, but this one certainly delivers where others can fail so easily. With an intriguing opening premise - the mission not quite a success, then an extended flashback to his opening days and nights at the Academy - we're both on familiar territory but at the same time not being faced with such over-familiar scenes as the training montage.
We do get regular tropes of fiction for the 12-and-ups, as this is, such as the bullyish character who comes back into the story exactly when we most expect it - unfortunately, the spunky smart girl who helps Jake out, and the bullying militaristic adult who needs a comeuppance. But we don't get endless scenes of him learning his skills, we don't get a forced-down-our-throat exposition about his new and peculiar world of being a shadowy spy, and we're left with a lot to discover in this intriguing plot.
Said plot does cover a few too many trips out into the field for a job, back, an escape, and back, but above that the drip, drip of information we get through the girl, Angel, and her technological wizardry, and the sheer fact that we can't be sure which among the adult cast Jake should be relying on, does provide us with a great deal of entertainment. Here is a simple and enjoyable way to circumvent the problem of a teen agent who can do everything too well and too brilliantly - have him hobbled and not allowed to show us his best until his life really does depends on it. I certainly relished Jake's story arc more than those in similar titles I've read.
There's a muscularity to the action, and the characters - all are strongly written, however stereotypical they might at first appear. I think there is a case for a tiny bit of flab to be excised, and one or two wee instances of things unlikely to happen or to be available to Jake and Angel, but beyond that this is a powerful debut novel.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
You can read more book reviews or buy Jake Highfield: Chaos Unleashed by Alec Sillifant at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Jake Highfield: Chaos Unleashed by Alec Sillifant at Amazon.com.
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