A digital copy of this book I got from the author free of charge – thank you very much!
Title: C.Y.A.: The Case of Tangled Love (A Covert Youth Agency Novel, Book 1)
Author: Jason Ancona
Format: Digital ebook
Page Count: 258 pages
Target group: YA (MG so ages 8-14 preferably)
We are presented a bunch of teenagers (in their early teens) who try to cope with different problems (most often family and school-related) by creating the CYA (so the Covert Youth Agency from the title). The organization (or rather a club of three) is led by Pi (a.k.a. Peter Samuels) – a sophomore boy unlike most of his peers: thoughtful, funny and intelligent. He is helped by Delilah Lightman (a computer whiz and a freshman) and Ben ‘Tollhouse’ Gaw (who dreams to become an actor and could be called “Mr. Social Skills”). Together they attend Trenton High School which is neither better nor worse than an average American educational institution. Their current case is one of tangled love, where Vera, Pi’s secret crush, wants to know if her boyfriend Jack “JackO” Orton cheated on her at a party. After all an obnoxious (but well- endowed) girl, called Chloe, shows only too clear she wouldn’t mind knowing handsome JackO a bit closer. Will Pi and his friends find out about the truth? Will they be willing to share it with Vera?
What I liked:
A nice twist on the usual cliques in high schools and a way for the underdogs to take control WITHOUT any supernatural tricks and/or creatures – isn’t it just amazing? No magic! No werewolves! Not even a hint of a vampire or a zombie! What a bliss!
The sense of humour was really a strong point of this book – all three main characters are really fun (but in an intelligent way); Tollhouse and Lightman are a typical quarelling couple – they bicker often and bring much of the humor to the book but I suppose they like each other (very deep down of course). Pi is a real hero, a young boy with some backbone – I loved to see him growing up so quickly while solving the case! The CYA spy techniques would put to shame several CIA agents and would make more than one parent think twice before they leave their kids alone at home for an extended period of time (say more than two hours).
What I didn’t like:
The dialogue was a bit on the heavy side and the narrative style – a bit too simplistic in my very humble opinion (but it is a MG read so maybe I am being a bit unfair here). The plot had some holes (how a bunch of teens get hold of so much alcohol during their parties? How come nobody dared to complain to their parents about Deek – one of the horrible teachers- and his hazing rituals?)
Also some things were left unresolved (Deek once again) – I don’t like it but I suppose another installment has been published or is going to be published soon. One more thing: the use of pop culture (Twilight and Harry Potter references for example) will make the book understandable for kids now, but might limit and date it in the future.
Covert Youth Agency is an easy and cute read with hints of deeper things. I don’t regret I asked for a copy but I suppose I would enjoy it more if I were younger… On the other hand if your child is a HP/Artemis Fowl fan he/she might really like it.