Reviews: Going Rogue and Burn Bright

Reviews: Going Rogue and Burn Bright

Reviews: Going Rogue and Burn BrightGoing Rogue by Robin Benway
Published by Walker Books on January 14, 2014
Genres: mystery
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads

four-stars

Being permanently based in a local New York City high school as an undercover operative has its moments, good and bad, for 16-year-old safecracker Maggie Silver. Pros: More quality time with her former mark-turned-boyfriend Jesse Oliver and insanely cool best friend, Roux. Getting to spend quality time with her semi-retired and international spy honorary uncle, Angelo. Cons: High school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. But when Maggie’s parents are falsely accused of stealing priceless gold coins, Maggie uses her safecracking skills to try and clear their names. Too bad it only serves to put her and everyone she loves in danger. Maggie and her “new team” flee to Paris where they must come up with a plan to defeat their former allies.

The Also Known As series is like a good-humored blend of Rachel Hawkins’ + Ally Carter’s books. These light-hearted capers are quick, entertaining reads, and I’m pleased to say that the latest installment Going Rogue carries on the fun and funny vibe of the first book. In between breaking and entering, safe-cracking, stealing, and other assorted duties as a spy, Maggie’s also now dealing with boyfriend and BFF troubles. Along with, you know, her parents being targeted by the operation they work for, which leads to the entire family going underground and on the run.

Things I enjoyed:

  • Going Rogue is like a love letter to New York. From the Cloisters to the secret platform beneath Grand Central Station to Washington Square Park and more, it’s really fun to tool around the city with Maggie as she zips from one assignation to another.
  • Fun action sequences
  • Adults who aren’t a drag, including Maggie’s memorable mentor Angelo and her parents
  • A cute, light romance with her former assignment (now boyfriend) Jesse
  • Wealth and spy activity described in believable ways
  • And above all else, the humorous narrative and dialogue that keeps you grinning through the whole story.

Here’s a brief moment in which Maggie’s best friend explaining Faberge eggs, for example:

Roux leaned over to peer at it. “Oh, that’s the designer’s initials. They would stamp them in before firing it in the oven. Like a business card or the Nike swoosh or something like that.”

It just tickles me that something so priceless and revered is treated in such a matter-of-fact, offhand kind of way.

I do think that once they all got to Paris, things became a little less focused, particularly because there are three new characters introduced who have a very similar energy to those we’re already dealing with.  But the book is so much fun, those quibbles don’t even matter. I don’t know if there are going to be more books in this series, but I certainly hope so–I love it when YA books have a sense of humor, and this series has it in spades.

divider vine cropped

The second book I’m reviewing today is another sequel I enjoyed! I’m always excited when sophomore books keep me interested, and in some ways I like both these books even more than the originals.

Burn Bright Bethany FrenetteAudrey Whitticomb saved her entire city.

Well, kind of. The superhero Morning Star (who just happens to be Audrey’s mom) might have played a small part, and her sidekick, Leon—Audrey’s sort-of boyfriend, who is gorgeous… and frustrating—maybe helped, too.

But after two peaceful months, there is a vicious new threat in Minneapolis. Her name is Susannah, and she’s a Harrower, a demon hell-bent on destroying people like Morning Star, Leon, and Audrey—the Kin. Like others before her, she seeks the Remnant, a Kin girl who has the power to unleash the inhabitants of the Beneath. But to what end?

Audrey already has a ton on her plate: dealing with her best friend Tink’s boy drama, helping her other best friend Gideon figure out his nightmares, and exploring the highs and lows of “dating” Leon. But when she develops a powerful new ability, Audrey seizes on the chance to fight, despite her mother’s protests and Leon’s pleas.

As Audrey gets closer to figuring out Susannah’s motives and tracking down the Remnant, she’ll uncover more than she bargained for. The terrible truth is staring Audrey in the face. But knowing the truth and accepting it are very different things

Title:                           Burn Bright (Dark Star #2)
Author:                       Bethany Frenette
Links:                         Amazon, GoodReads
Release Date:             February 25th, 2014
Publisher:                   Disney-Hyperion
Pages:                        352 pages
Rating:                       3.5 stars
Source:                      ARC from publisher

I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty hard to resist the idea of superheroes. The premise just satisfies the Wonder Woman-loving kid in me, and I enjoy that the Dark Star series is more focused on drama than on action. Besides, wouldn’t it be handy to have a boyfriend who could teleport?

In the second book of the series, Burn Bright finds Audrey learning more about her powers, as well as how the secret world of the Kin works. There’s a nasty new demon named Susannah hell-bent on wreaking havoc on the city, and Audrey has to figure out the mystery before it’s too late.

Things I enjoyed:

  • More superpower fighting
  • Audrey’s solidly believable relationship with her mom
  • More make-out scenes with Leon
  • An emotional back story with Drew, a Guardian whose fate is entwined with Susannah’s
  • And most poignantly, scenes with Audrey’s previously absent father Adrian View Spoiler »whose memory wipe is sadly reminiscent of Alzheimers « Hide Spoiler

A few quibbles:

  • I don’t love the capitalization of ordinary words that have been appropriated as key terms for this world. Reading about Audrey’s Knowing and things she’s Seen kind of made me snicker.
  • I wish Tink, one of Audrey’s best friends, was a little more interesting.
  • I wish the fight scenes were better choreographed and weren’t so quickly over.
  • There are too many name that begin with the same letter. Elspeth, Esther, Drew, Daniel, Gideon, Greg, Verrick, Val, Isobel, Iris…it’s hard to keep track of, particularly when most of them aren’t major or memorable characters

But making up for that are a couple of unexpected things that could easily gone another way, one involving Gideon and the other involving the Remnant, a Kin girl upon whom the fate of their kind rests. Spoiler alert: View Spoiler » it’s not Audrey! Hallelujah. « Hide Spoiler

If you enjoy superhero stories that aren’t quite as fast-action-oriented as scifi thrillers like Mila 2.0, you should give this series a try. It’s interesting to see stories like these that are more character-driven without being angsty, and I’m looking forward to the next book later this year.

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