The Squad (series) – Jennifer Lynn Barnes

 

Synopsis

Bayport High operates like any other high school–jocks at the top, outsiders at the bottom, and everyone else in between. Enter Toby Klein, a sophomore computer hacker who doesn’t play well with others. She has zero school spirit, a black belt in karate, and what her guidance counselor calls an attitude problem. She’s the last person you’d expect to be invited to join the varsity cheerleading squad.
But things are different at Bayport.
Bayport’s varsity cheer squad is made up of the hottest of the hot. But this A-list is dangerous in more ways than one. The Squad is actually a cover for the most highly trained group of underage government operatives the United States has ever assembled. Athletically, they’re unmatchable, though they make it all look easy on the field. Mentally, they’re exceptional–but with one flash of their gorgeous smiles, you’ll completely forget that. Socially, they’re gifted, so they can command and manipulate any situation. And above all, they have the perfect cover, because, beyond herkies and highlights, no one expects anything from a cheerleader.
Toby Klein might not seem like the most likely recruit, but she’s never been one to turn down a challenge. If she can handle the makeover, Bayport Hight may just have found its newest cheerleader.

Pretty, popular, armed, and extremely dangerous–meet THE SQUAD.

Review

Book 1: 

It was so strange reading this after flying through Barnes’s latest novel, The Fixer. As a storyteller, she has definitely improved over the years! This one was somewhat predictable and relied on cheap shots and jokes to carry it forward. Definitely more of a vanilla-fluffy read.

At the same time, I think this shows how much YA has grown as a genre. I consider this book part of the “first-coming” of YA spy books, in the same vein as The Specialists andDeath by…. Nowadays, a lot of YA takes itself more seriously (or at least, that’s how I try justifying why I still read it).

This story was fun, but at times I did feel like telling Toby to GET OVER HERSELF. I also thought some things were a tad melodramatic (matters of life or death?) and rushed.

Book 2: 

So, I just realized that Jennifer Lynn Barnes has a book called Killer Instinct AND this one, Killer Spirit. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like this book contributed anything meaningful. It was more of the same, and Toby’s “Woe is me, I hate my life” attitude gets old after a while. Nothing really happened on the Jack front, and a lot of the big plot points (e.g. Alan? Using Jack?) went unsolved. This is all probably coming in hindsight, as I know this series did not continue on. It was probably meant to get picked up as a looong series with many missions (think: Baby Sitters Club or Madison Finn, some of the really long series of the time). I can see why it wasn’t, and I’m also really glad that YA has moved past that trend.

Related Reading

  • A Girl Named Digit – Annabel Monaghan
  • The Specialists – Shannon Greenland
  • Death by Bikini – Linda Garber
  • Also Known As – Robin Benway

Rating (Book 1): 3/5
Rating (Book 2): 1/5

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