Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Review: Going Rogue by Robin Benway
Title: Going Rogue (Also Known As, #2)
Author: Robin Benway
Rating: 4 Stars
Note: This review contains no spoilers for Also Known As, the first book in this series, but it does hint at events from Also Known As during the brief synopsis to provide context for this novel. You can read my review of Also Known As here.
I honestly didn't expect to fall in love with this series as much as I did. I tend to gravitate towards darker contemporary fiction featuring teens on the cusp of adulthood and yet, Benway's entertaining spy thrillers have managed to establish their own niche in my heart. In Going Rogue, Maggie, a safecracker whose life has been spent working for a spy agency known as the Collective, has finally settled down for the first time in her life. She's been in New York City for nearly a year now, spending her days alongside her best friend, Roux, and boyfriend, Jesse. Though Maggie longed for the chance to be just another normal teenage girl, now that the highlight of her days are SAT prep classes, she is forced to admit that she's bored. As much as she thought she could suppress being a spy, the fact of the matter remains that deep down, being a spy is more than just a profession; it's who she is.
When the Collective turns against Maggie's parents, however--a retaliation after Maggie exposed the chink in their armor in Also Known As,--Maggie takes it upon herself to find the evidence that will prove her parents' innocence. With the help of Angelo, the man who is practically an uncle to her, Maggie swears to save her family, all while maintaining the new relationships she's formed since arriving to NYC. While Also Known As charmed me with its down-to-earth narration and genuine honesty, Going Rogue stole my heart with its all-too-believable hurdles and heart-warming difficulties. As easy as it may be, physically, for Maggie to return to former skills in order to save her parents, it's a mental strain as it means she must distance herself from her best friend and boyfriend. After getting Roux and Jesse involved in her life a year ago, Maggie has no desire to put them in harm's way again and though she has their best interests at heart, it isn't easy to navigate those relationships.
Both Roux and Jesse understand and support Maggie, but they also want her time and presence in their lives. For Roux, who is used to being left behind by her absentee parents, the thought of Maggie going undercover instantly equates to Maggie leaving. I love the friendship between Maggie and Roux but it undergoes its rough patches in this novel, though it certainly emerges stronger for it. Similarly, Jesse and Maggie face their own struggles in their relationship but, what I love about these two is how perfectly they balance one another out, especially in times of turmoil. Despite any hurdles in their path, they face them down together and Benway writes their romance with plenty of swoon, despite the lack of steam. In fact, that's what makes their love story all the more adorable and swoon-worthy; the little things.
Going Rogue introduces a handful of new characters, all of whom I loved, and it continues to feature a stellar example of faithfully realistic parent-child conversations. Angelo, who I grew to like very much in Also Known As, has swiftly become one of my favorite characters and his wisdom, intelligence, and presence in the lives of all these teens, not just Maggie, is reassuring. It adds a touch of realism to what would have otherwise been a wildly unbelievable novel, I think, as Maggie isn't solely responsible or wise enough to take on international spy tasks without Angelo's intel and guidance. Benway's prose, as always, is compulsively readable and the narration, full of easy sarcasm, clever wit, and laugh-out-loud humor only adds to the pleasure of the reading experience. These novels prove to be the perfect light-hearted contemporary read, all with the much-needed character-depth I constantly crave. Quick, fun, and with no shortage of swoon, Benway's novels are a must-read.