So I was really excited when I heard about Y. S. Lee's novel The Agency: A Spy in the House. There really are not enough YA mysteries. The only ones I can really think of off the top of my head are ones like John Green's Paper Towns, where there is a mystery woven into a coming-of-age story. There are very few really hardcore mysteries in YA literature, and I think there should definitely be more.
A Spy in the House's first chapter was excellent. We're introduced to Mary Lang, a twelve-year-old thief being sent to the gallows in Victorian London. She is saved from her fate by a mysterious woman and sent to a charity school.
But the second chapter, where Mary is grown up and requesting a different post other than schoolteacher, was freaking boring. The way The Agency, a secret women's detective school, was introduced is like, major info-dump. I was kind of wondering what I'd gotten myself into, with this book!
So if you come up against a wall in the opening chapters, persevere. Because once the narrative had moved past Mary's becoming a spy, it really picked up. It actually became addictive, the kind of book I stayed up late for and hated being parted from. I fished it out of my backpack at work to read feverishly on my measly 15 minute break! I just had to know how everything was going to turn out.
The two main characters, Mary and James, made an awesome pair... I haven't rooted for a pairing in YA this hard in quite some time.
I'm really glad I read this book when I did, since the second book in the series is being released on August 31st! Not a long wait for me this time.
I actually really loved this book. And while some people don't care for the cover, I like it a lot. It says a lot about the story and stays true to the setting and time period of Victorian England.
I'd give it a 4.5/5.