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Children's LiteratureAGERANGE: Ages 8 to 11.
This fourth entry in the "Max Remy" series finds its 11-year-old "world-famous superspy" paying a long-awaited visit to her dad in Hollywood. Joining Max on the trip are her aunt, uncle, and best friend Linden, all of whom are fellow spies. Before they are able to embark on their cross-country journey, Max's secret spy stuff (including a time and space machine) is stolen by Toby, a schoolmate whose infatuation with Max is, perversely, displayed by taunting her. After Max is reunited with her wealthy and well-known director dad, Max has an unexpected encounter with Toby, who shows up to share in the fun. His arrival not only aggravates Max, but tremendously complicates the situation, as she and Linden unsuccessfully attempt to exclude him from all things spy-related. When Max and Linden get embroiled in a nefarious scheme to sneak messages into films, Toby comes along for the ride. Along the way, Dad turns evil (or appears to); Dad is kidnapped; Max and Linden are kidnapped; and Linden dies. All works out just fine in the end, and everything's set up for the next sequel. Unfortunately, this Spy Kids-wannabe tries to balance fifty percent humor and fifty percent excitement and, as a result, does neither exceptionally. Potty humor abounds (a missing scientist is Dr. Biggus Fartie. Get it?), and many plot "twists" aren't. Ironically, the occasional Chronicles of Spy Force penned by Max herself are both better written, and more exciting, than the story itself. O'Connor's black-and-white sketches, however, are cute and light-hearted. Reviewer: Naomi Milliner