A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Author: Stuart Gibbs
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: October 11, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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