What I Liked: Likeable protagonist, a very intriguing and over-the-top (read: fun) story line, good dose of humour.
And I Learned: Cheerleading really is a tough sport. And the girls on the squad work hard!
Ms. Bookish’s Very Quick Take: Spy stories with a difference! These books were a fun and delightful read – I’m definitely watching out for more from The Squad!
The Full Review of The Squad: Perfect Cover and The Squad: Killer Spirit
I brought both these books from The Squad series, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, with me to Disney over the holidays, and I was very glad I did. Both books were quick and fun reads, and in our downtime in between theme parks, I found myself racing through first Perfect Cover and then (happy that I had had the foresight to bring the sequel along) Killer Spirit.
In Perfect Cover, Toby Klein, self-professed computer hacker, code cracker and high school outsider, finds herself with an invite to tryout for Bayport High’s elite cheerleading squad, known by one and all as the God Squad. She would have ignored the invite, if it weren’t for the fact that she discovers it actually contains an encrypted message.
Intrigued (as was I), she decides to attend the tryout, and before she really knows what’s happening, she finds herself a member of the God Squad, THE most popular group at Bayport High. And while she’s not liking any of the makeover part of the job description (some of the scenes where the twins, Brittany and Tiffany, work on Toby’s transformation are very funny), she’s quite intrigued by the one really interesting thing about the God Squad.
They’re a group of undercover CIA operatives. Seriously. This part of the story is so over-the-top, it’s just pure fun. Beneath the high school gym where the girls hold their cheerleading practices is a huge techno-lair, filled with gadgets and gizmos that would have Bond salivating. And it’s not that the God Squad is made up of adults pretending to be teens – no, these are teenagers who happen to be both beauty queens and lethal CIA operatives.
Toby is a very likeable protagonist – she has a very strong sense of self, as well as a wonderful sense of humour. She stays resistant to all of the beautifying and has a very strong aversion to much of the prestige that goes with being a member of the God Squad – not to mention glitter. Her reaction in Killer Spirit to being glitter-fied is just hilarious.
And to find herself suddenly having to sit at the same lunch table as the football players she’s had to beat up occasionally because of the run-ins her little brother Noah has had with them is an uncomfortable situation, to say the least.
In a process that starts in Perfect Cover and continues in Killer Spirit, Toby begins to see that she’s been as guilty of judging a book by its cover as she thinks others have judged her. Sure, these cheerleaders are gorgeous, elitist and rule the school with iron pompoms, but there’s more to them than just their looks. Deep down inside, each one has her own personality, her own individuality, her own awesome talents, her own fears and dreams and pressures.
And the football players? As Toby says near the end of Killer Spirit, after one of the stars of the football team tells her, admiringly, that she’s a really strange girl:
All things considered, it was probably the nicest thing Chip had ever said to me. For the first time since I’d met him, I didn’t feel even slightly compelled to castrate him with a butter knife.
The storylines in both books are interesting and exciting, but it was the premise itself that held my attention. The Squad: Perfect Cover and The Squad: Killer Spirit have it all: lots of action, bad guys, gadgets, high-stakes espionage, some really fun and snarky lines, high school gossip, glitter, a bad boy romantic interest, and Victoria’s Secret lingerie.
They’re not girly-girl books – they’re about girly-girls totally kicking butt. You can’t do much more than cheer them on (so to speak). One other thing: The Squad series will likely transform the way you think about cheerleaders – brains, beauty and athletic prowess, the God Squad has it all. All in all, both books in the series are fun reads. Ms. Bookish’s Rating: A-/B+ Good Read Plus ?