Playing with Fire by Bruce Hale
Posted by Caitie F on June 25, 2013
Summary from pub:
Juvenile delinquent and budding pyromaniac Max Segredo belongs in juvie hall. At least, that’s what his most recent foster family would tell you. Instead, Max ends up on the doorstep of Merry Sunshine Orphanage-their very heavily guarded doorstep. As he begins to acclimate to his new home, Max learns a few things straightaway: first, cracking a Caesar Cipher isn’t as hard as it seems; second, never sass your instructor if she’s also holding throwing knives; and third, he may not be an orphan after all.
Soon, Max and the rest of the students are sent on a mission to keep a dangerous weapon out of the hands of LOTUS, an international group bent on world domination. Of course, all Max cares about is finding out more about his father, the man he’s now sure is still alive. As the stakes get higher, Max must make some difficult choices, including who to trust, and finally learns the true meaning of family.
For some reason, spy school always sounds like it would be a lot of fun. Picking locks, breaking codes, learning how to dodge around lasers – sounds like fun, right? If you think it does, this is a great middle grade novel about an orphanage that is really a spy school and what family really means.
I really liked all the kids in the book, even the ones that didn’t seem like they would be that likable. You can easily understand where they are coming from and why they are defensive or have some aggression issues. It sets up rivalries and shows there is more than one side to every story.
There is some character development in this book, but it is mostly plot-driven, which isn’t raelly a bad thing for a book like this. It is the first in a series, so I would hope there is more character development in the next book, but this book does exactly what it promises.
The message of the book is a little heavy-handed and is repeated again and again, which might makes reader wants to yell at the book “Okay, I get it already!!”. It doesn’t take away from the rest of the book, but it might make you roll your eyes again whether you are a middle grader or an adult.
This is a fun book that will excite readers and may make them interesting in doing some spying. Just make sure there aren’t any heating or air conditioning vents they could try to crawl through.