Spy Ski School: Spy School, Book 4

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Spy Ski School: Spy School, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Crushes, jealousy cut in on spy action on ski slopes.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Explains some of the basics of skiing with great example of how pushing through difficult endeavors helps build skills.

Positive Messages

Good messages about honesty, respecting friendships, humility, hard work, perseverance, and facing new challenges.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main characters work well as a team, supporting each other's strengths and focusing on their common goal. They're serious about their work, putting in long hours and holding their own in testy discussions with adult supervisors. Ben is thoughtful and patient, building skills through resilience and learning from mistakes. He's a well-meaning friend, preferring honesty to deception. Erica is a savvy and skilled spy, reliable and always ready to help anyone out of a jam, although she's sometimes dismissive of her teammates' contributions.


Lots of action and peril, including gunfire, threats of physical violence, chases. Children are in serious danger, and one shoots at an a villainous adult. Teen gives another teen a laxative so she'll be sidelined in the bathroom. Child suffers serious blow to head.


Plot revolves around crushes and romantic jealousy. Brief kiss.


Teasing and insulting name-calling: "jerk," "nitwit," "pervert." Cursing includes "damn," "hell," and "screwed."


References to snack foods and vehicles.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spy Ski School -- the fourth book in Stuart Gibbs' teen-spy series (Spy School) -- puts romantic relationships and friendships at center stage. Of course there's a nefarious villain with an over-the-top scheme, but that plot evolves slowly in the background. Most of the action centers on Ben's efforts to charm one girl without angering another and handling a romantic rival. There are several chases, lots of gunfire, and perilous situations, but it's playfully presented with a wink and a nod to spy-genre conventions. One villain is shot in the foot, and another appears to drown.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySD772 January 1, 2020

Original reviewer missed blasphemy

We have enjoyed the Spy School series but were disappointed to find OMG in this one and it was not picked up by the original Common Sense Media reviewer.
Adult Written byrachelrocks11 November 13, 2020

Sex is a one dot

This is an awesome book, but I think they should've put one dot for sex. There was a kiss, crushes and advice on women. A character mentioned champagne for... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old January 21, 2021

Ski Spy School

This is an awesome book! Although I would not recommend it to anyone under 9 years old, everyone else should totally read this book. The book is about how Ben i... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old January 6, 2021

good book

this book is super good. There is some bombs and guns but is a very good book. go and read it

What's the story?

SPY SKI SCHOOL sends 13-year-old spy-in-training Ben Ripley to Vail, Colorado, for a top-priority mission disguised as a ski vacation. Ben's mission is to befriend Jessica Shang, the teen daughter of criminal mastermind Leo Shang, to try to uncover a murky plot. An added bonus: He's going with Erica, the top spy at school who's stubbornly unresponsive to his personal interest. Ben gets off to a good start, but things go awry when his best friend Mike shows up on the scene -- and Jessica's swept away by his charm. Ben needs to shake off his friend, get back in Jessica's good graces, and foil the plot -- before it's too late. Complicating matters is Ben's crush on Erica, the best spy in the school.

Is it any good?

Ben and his friends hit the slopes in the latest in Stuart Gibbs' spy-school series, but this time the problem isn't just the bad guy -- crushes and romantic drama get in the way of their mission. The teen spies go to Spy Ski School to figure out what, if anything, Leo Shang is plotting, but most of the energy is focused on entangled flirting among two spies, a friend, and Shang's daughter.

The awkwardness and drama may strike a chord with readers, but the manipulation and stereotyping hit a sour note. Girls especially might feel a bit betrayed to see smart, talented Erica hamming it up as a ditzy, silly girl to distract Ben's friend. The action scenes are exciting, as always, and the kids' clever problem-solving keep this one from wiping out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about romantic rivalry in Spy Ski School. Ben and his friends and colleagues rely on jealousy and flattery to get close to Jessica. Do you think this portrayal is realistic and respectful of girls (or boys)?

  • Ben is told his only real talent as a spy is the ability to make friends. Do you see this as an important skill? How is it helpful?

  • Which familiar spy-movie devices are in this novel? Do you find such references clever or predictable?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery and adventure

Themes & Topics

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