Themed Gift Pack: Also Known As by Robin Benway

Happy Book Release Day to Robin Benway for Also Known As!

I reviewed this book a few weeks ago, and thought it was an absolute joy from the setting (New York City!) to the supporting characters (hilarious) and a sweet romance (yet kind of forbidden).

Maggie is a world-renowned safe cracker in a family of spies, part of a bigger group called The Collective. When their true identities are threatened to be compromised, Maggie must venture into high school for the first time and get the dirt on her classmate’s father, who is thought to be the culprit. Of course, Jesse Oliver is super cute and super nice to Maggie so not only does she have no idea how a normal 16-year old should act but she’s falling for the enemy! As you can see, there’s a lot of fun stuff going on in here.

It’s been awhile since Magan and I featured a themed gift pack… we started doing this around the holidays because we a) love shopping b) loved theme gifts c) liked thinking up gifts we would like to receive ourselves. I had so much fun with it that I was hoping to be inspired by a book this year to jump start the series again, and here I am!

Let’s go shopping!

Also Known As Themed Gift Pack

( 1 ) Key to my heart necklace from Fossil: Maggie is a pro at cracking locks, and while this one won’t leave her with much of a challege… it’s the perfect tribute to one of her top skills.

( 2 ) Starbucks card: This character is a huge caffeine addict + I love it! She’s constantly jonesing for nice cup of coffee, especially in the morning. This is just like me… and many of you I’m sure.

( 3) Another aspect I loved about AKA is how Maggie would poke fun of how spies are seen in pop culture. Tip: generally they stay out of the limelight so it someone looks like a spy… they probably aren’t. But just for fun here’s a cute fedora and oversized pair of sunglasses to pull off the look.

( 4 ) Anne Taintor journal: No joke… I’ve had this particular notepad for about 5 years now and the cover always cracks me up. Though Maggie is totally innocent, it seems like something she would say in jest: “She had not yet decided whether to use her power for good… or for evil.” (Plus family friend, Angelo, is always leaving Maggie little notes and drawings on paper.)

( 5 ) Also Known As: Can’t get any better than a copy of this book! It truly is a ton of fun with a solid amount of heart!

Be sure to stop by your local bookstore to seek out Robin’s book today! And if you haven’t already, check out my review!

Estelle: Also Known As by Robin Benway

Also Known As by Robin BenwayAlso Known As by Robin Benway [ website | twitter ]
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Pages: 320
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: spies, high school, New York, mystery
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Maggie might be a pro at cracking locks all over the world, but the one thing she is not prepared for when she gets her new assignment is HIGH SCHOOL with kids her actual age. Shifting from life in Iceland to NYC’s Soho neighborhood, Maggie is on her own to get the dirt on the father of one of her classmates — a man who is threatening to uncover the identities of the Collective, including spies like Maggie and her parents. But the one thing Maggie is not prepared for is just how cute and charming her newest target is…

I’m not usually into sweeping generalizations so early in the year, but here’s one for ya: so far, 2013 has totally knocked my socks off with surprise hits.

Also Known As easily slides in this category. It’s not like I didn’t have a hunch this would happen since Audrey Wait! was so much fun and I loved Robin’s letter in the Dear Teen Me anthology… but I had no idea I would love love it.

In a book about a family of spies, I didn’t know what to expect. Mayhem? Fluff? Sure, those are all there. In fact, Maggie’s family sort of reminded me of The Incredibles, a super supportive family where every person had their own specific skill. In this case, Maggie was a safecracker, her dad was adept at stats/languages, and her mom was the ultimate hacker.

But Benway brought more comedy to this story than I expected.

Because imagine being savvy to all these major cases and living all over the world and then being forced to go to high school. It’s hilarious because Maggie seems pretty mature due to the responsibilities of her occupation but when it comes to the everyday kid things… cell phones, best friends, dating, fashion? She is totally clueless, and this parallel between her double lives just really made the book for me.

Then there’s setting. New York City? Awesome. Supporting characters. SO good. Roux, the social outcast who befriends Maggie. Her parents aren’t around a lot, she’s lost all of her friends, and she has this sort of outrageous personality that was so addicting. Then there is Angelo, a family friend and Maggie’s mentor, who is so warm, adorable, and reminds me of Michael Caine in Miss Congeniality for some reason. (Okay, this book was so cinematic to me because I think Rebel Wilson would make a kick-ass Roux.) Both of these characters had such a supreme effect on Maggie because she’s supposed to go into the whole assignment as a professional and not make friends. But despite her responsibility to the Collection, she IS 16 and she desperately wants a normal life.

And what can I say about Jesse Oliver? It’s no great twist in literature that Maggie falls for ” the enemy” but I did really like him, and I liked seeing this character fall for someone for the first time, and all the awesome firsts (and doubts) that come along with that. Again, there’s this added layer that she is indeed lying to both Roux and Jesse, probably the first friends she’s ever made in her life, and I kept wondering how she would eventually handle that. (Also kudos to Benway to giving Jesse some real dimension; liked his sub storyline a lot.)

One thing that surprised me about the book was the pacing, which I found a little slow for a book of this nature. But Maggie’s winning personality kept me going and I found myself having a blast, reading about the many adventures (and mis-adventures) supplied in Also Known As (the cherry on top was an uncovered Dirty Dancing reference) and I’m certainly looking forward to the sequel!

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