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Terri Selting David
Author, Illustrator
The Renegade Spy Project
Wren is impulsive, curious, and always in trouble. When her STEM club is accused of a crime, can her flaws become their greatest asset to catch the real thief? Wren Sterling has a problem. She knows she's super smart and a good friend, but no matter how hard she tries, she can't shake her reputation as a troublemaker. It feels like the only people who believe in her are her three best friends in the Renegade Girls Tinkering Club. She’d hoped middle school would be different, but when her inability to control her temper causes an accident, even her beloved STEM Club is no longer a safe haven. She has to find a way to fix it. When her idea to start a business inventing and selling spy gadgets succeeds, it looks like she's finally done something right! But then the Club is accused of a crime. Can they use their own gadgets, and a little bit of trouble to solve the mystery? If they can find the real culprit, Wren may just discover she has a bright future after all. If they can’t, she could lose her best friends forever. “It’s The Babysitter's Club meets MacGyver!” Build your own SPY GADGETS! Instructions included in this charming story about friendship, middle school, and the Engineering Design Process for kids ages 8-12.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 8.25 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: Wren and her friends are misfits in a school currently overrun with election-season drama. Their internal and external conflicts teach them and readers how to overcome differences, accept differences in others, and support friends regardless of how their individual interests may change. The book is engaging and a fun representation of middle-grade life.

Prose/Style: The prose is consistent, easy to read, and very appropriate for a middle-grade audience. The writer includes terms and explanations that are more complex than children’s literature, yet more simplistic and easy to digest than those in YA books, making it the perfect reading level for middle grade. The text is presented formally and in an imaginative way.

Originality: A middle grade mystery featuring a small group of misfits is, of course, far from original in itself. However, the realism this piece takes on is unique to the genre. The reader can follow every scene and picture themselves next to the characters or in their school. Additionally, the detailed illustrations and directions for the characters’ inventions and methods are cute and interactive, setting this book apart from many others on the market.

Character Development/Execution: The characters were likable, realistic, and fair representations of their age group. Some characters, like Ivy and Benjamin, do not undergo much, if any, character development in this piece. However, the characters given more focus, such as Kammie, Amber, Axel, and Wren, undergo relatable and much-needed character development by the end of the book. The lessons these characters learn can be applied to the life of any young reader—and may even serve as a good reminder for adults, too.

Date Submitted: May 19, 2021

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