“Grades aren’t always good enough,” he said. “Right now, the only extracurriculars you can list on a college application are street fighting and instigating international incidents.”
It is with this sentence that Riley Collins finds herself heading away from her life as a diplomats daughter and into the illustrious halls of Harrington Academy. She wonders which is more dangerous: the streets of Pakistan where a price is on her head, or the halls of a school filled with spoiled rich kids who would rather eat her alive than befriend her.
“They may not kill you here, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to eat you.”
Her attendance is a little more complicated than just attending her Senior Year and getting some talking points for her college resume. She has been tasked with an actual mission from the State Department. Official oath and everything.
Once she agrees, it takes little time to whisk her to New York. There she is groomed to within an inch of her life, thrown into a shopping spree most girls only dream of and given an “emergency” American Express. Maybe this year won’t be quite so bad after all.
“They had to perform an extraction. In my world, that meant a black ops team going into dangerous territory to recover a lost man. Here it involved squeezing every pore on my face until I would have willingly confessed to anything.”
Why does there always have to be an ‘except’?
Her reception to Harrington is less than warm and fuzzy. The head mistress makes it clear she is actively looking for a way to throw her out. Her roommate, Hayden, ignores that she even exists. This is sort of a problem though, since Hayden is the mission. Well, protecting her is the mission. Riley finds it difficult to make sure she’s okay when you have no idea where she is throughout the day. Or acting like a stalker.
Even worse, she finds out that the reason for Hayden’s chilly reception is that Riley is taking the place of her former roommate and best friend Rose. Who was killed a week before the term began.
“There was a reason Harrington didn’t admit seniors; they had to wait for one of them to die to make room! What else was out there waiting to ambush me?”
This was such a fun read! I loved it! Riley is a delight. She has an incredibly fun sarcastic humor to her. I loved that she used growing up as a diplomat’s daughter to her advantage by applying the lessons her dad would teach her. Very useful in negotiating angry head mistresses and demanding teachers. She also comes fully equipped with all the lessons her bodyguard and second father, Benson, taught her. Mainly fighting and military tactics. The combination is entertaining and extremely amusing!
In addition to Riley and Hayden, who does eventually thaw to Riley, we get an ensemble of characters, each just as enjoyable as Riley. Von, the cute boy who she meets her first day. He is helpful in showing her around the school, but also in helping her get near Hayden. Quinn, Hayden’s new sidekick and BFF. She starts off nice to Riley, but as Hayden warms to her, Quinn takes a jealous turn for the worse. Stef, who is probably my absolute favorite character outside of Riley. Gorgeous and charming with a lovely penchant for the dramatic, Stef is delightful to read. And then there’s, Sam. The insanely hot head of the MMA club who makes Riley’s insides melt when he looks at her. Too bad he’s Hayden’s ex, which equals very off-limits. It’s also too bad he doesn’t agree with that assessment.
The adults in this book are excellent too. There is nothing worse than reading a YA book with great teenagers and all the adults are duds. This is not the case here!
I adored her dad and Benson. Her dad teaches her diplomatic skills and parents her the best way he can. And Benson sends her a footlocker full of tasers, tactical equipment and spyware. Which is how he helps and loves her the best way he can. It’s awesome! I smiled at every interaction they had.
“My dad would probable be appalled at what I was considering, but Benson would cheer me on from the sidelines.”
Mr. Bracken is also a treat! Described as “Bracken the Kracken” by other students and known for being extremely tough in his classroom, he was far more well-rounded than just another hard-ass teacher. Yes, he takes student expectations to a whole new level, but there is a lot of substance to him and he was very enjoyable to get to know.
“I’m thinking I should send you on your way. I wouldn’t want to lose the most entertaining TA I’ve had in years.”
This novel sounds like a spy novel for kids, but it’s so much more. It’s James Bond meets Mean Girls. How does that NOT sound like an amazing combination? Every obstacle Riley encounters feel real. She has to balance trying to be a bodyguard and navigate the treacherous waters of High School. Sometimes she makes mistakes, or does the wrong thing. Which you would expect. I didn’t find the adults to be flat or annoying, or the kids to be uber-adult. They all felt exceptionally well balanced and well rounded.
Using her dad as an international diplomat, along with Benson training her with military tactics and skills, the way Riley problem-solves various situations make a lot of sense. And again, she doesn’t know everything. She asks for help. She makes mistakes. She just uses what she knows to try and problem solve.
This is the first book in an expected series and I cannot wait for book 2! I will absolutely be continuing to read future books. This is a story I could easily see becoming a movie or a TV show, although I really hope they do the writing justice. If you’re a fan of spy novels, or military type novels, and you also love YA, this book is definitely for you! Less explosions, but no less entertaining.
Thank you BookSparks and Curiosity Quills Press for sending a copy to read and review!