Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.
Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.

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I have so much respect for every one of Robin Benway’s novels. Each one has a totally unique premise and main character, but they’re all somehow easy to relate to and more fun than the last. 

The protagonist in Also Known As, Maggie, reminds me of a younger version of Stella, Charlize Theron’s character, from the movie The Italian Job, which is one of my absolute favorites. Maggie is a teenaged safecracker who travels the world with her parents and she’s the best at what she does. What Maggie isn’t so good at is being a “normal” 16-year old girl, which is a key element of her newest mission: Jesse Oliver. 

It’s Maggie’s job to gain Jesse’s trust in order to find out information about his father and gain access to the safe in their home. As one might imagine, things don’t go exactly as planned. Maggie quickly learns there’s a lot more to Jesse than she first assumed… and he’s more than a little interested in her as well.

While I loved Maggie, her friends, Angelo and Roux, often came close to upstaging her. Both were such interesting characters that I found myself wishing Benway would tell more about them. Angelo is a friend of Maggie’s family who also works for the same organization, but as a forger. He gives exceptionally good advice and has wonderful fashion sense. Roux is a strong individual who fully admits to creating her downfall from the popular crowd, but she never loses sight of who she is. I would love to see a future book about Roux, which some involvement from Angelo of course, since the two characters really seemed to be bonding by the end of Also Known As.

While Also Known As isn’t a terribly complicated thriller and mystery, as it focuses much more on the characters and their relationships than the actual mystery (I can’t actually remember exactly what Maggie is hoping to find when she picks the safe in the Oliver house), it still kept me guessing. I was never completely sure who Maggie could or should trust.

For me, Benway’s newest offering is in the same vein as Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls and Heist Society books, but perhaps for a slightly older audience. I have a soft spot for Carter’s books and, while Also Known As has definitely similarities, both authors successfully bring something unique to the premise. I highly recommend Also Known As and am sincerely hoping for a sequel!

Bloomsbury Juvenile, February 2013, Hardcover, ISBN:  9780802733900, 320 pages.

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