Spies fascinate, infuriate, and enchant us. As much as we loathe the people who sneak behind our own lines and steal our secrets, we daydream about being brave and wily enough to sneak behind enemy lines ourselves. These six recent YA books explore our fascination with spies—and how far they’re willing to go to complete their mission.
Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen
Looking for a thrilling, fast-paced, haunting, intense feminist historical novel? You’ll want to grab Orphan Monster Spy. A boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazis needs to be infiltrated, and Sarah—blonde, blue-eyed, Jewish—is the girl for the job. Keen on revenge after Nazis murdered her mother, Sarah puts her acting skills to work and leaps into her new role—but her classmates are as brutal as their parents, and every hour her survival is at risk.
The Spy with the Red Balloon, by Katherine Locke
I love a good sibling story, and it’s even better when those siblings are magical spies. Targeted for their magic and blackmailed by the government, Ilse and Wolf have no choice but to take on the Allies most treasured project: the atomic bomb. Ilse’s magic accelerates the process, while Wolf crosses into enemy territory to stop Hitler from building it first. But when Wolf’s plane is shot down, and with a spy embedded in Ilse’s laboratory, the siblings might lose all they’ve worked toward—or even their lives. This companion novel to Sydney Taylor Honor Book The Girl with the Red Balloon—you don’t have to read one to love the other!—is a must-read for those who love a hybrid of magic and history.
An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason, by Virginia Boecker
If you’ve been looking for a new historical novel in the vein of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Virgina Boecker delivers. After discovering her father was involved in a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth, Lady Katherine decides to fulfill his mission and kill the Queen herself. Arriving in London dressed as a boy, she snags a role in William Shakespeare’s newest play—but the production is a plot to root out insurrectionists and destroy the rebellion once and for all. That is, if the mastermind behind it doesn’t fall for Katherine first.
Circle of Shadows, by Evelyn Skye
Evelyn Skye made a splash with debut The Crown’s Game, and now she’s kicked off a brand new series. Sora is marked by the gods. She and her gemina Daemon are trained as apprentice warriors by the Society of Taigas and can fight like ghosts, until they encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers. The only thing for the warriors to do is infiltrate the group, because those soldiers could start the Blood Rift Rebellion all over again.
Dark of the West, by Joanna Hathaway
Do you love enemies-to-lovers stories? Me, too. In this military adventure, Aurelia Isendare and Athan Dakar are on two sides of the same war. When Athan’s mother dies, he sneaks into the castle as part of a plot to overthrow the Queen. His role? To spy on Aurelia Isendare, whose family shields her from the politics of the world, and who Athan finds himself falling for. The world isn’t as simple or uncomplicated as either Aurelia and Athan’s parents have made it appear, and they soon learn they cannot trust all they’ve been told.
Sky Without Stars, by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell
I love science fiction reimaginings of classic stories. That’s part of why I fell so hard for Ashley Poston’s Heart Of Iron, and now it’s why I’m so hyped for Sky Without Stars. Brody and Rendell reimagine Les Misérables on a futuristic planet where, five centuries after settling, the elite class rules while the poor starve in the streets. A revolution could save the planet, but for it to succeed, thief Chatine must not get caught spying on wealthy officer Marcellus; Marcellus must not fail to pass on his father’s dying message for the mysterious Alouette; and Alouette must survive leaving her underground library and returning to the surface.