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Review: Alias Dragonfly by Jane Singer

Friday, December 16, 2011
2 Stars: An Okay Read
Series: Alias #1
Paperback: 161 Pages
Publication: November 1, 2011 by Bell Bridge Books

Fifteen years old. Wanted: Dead or Alive.

"Don't love a spy," warns fifteen-year-old Pinkerton agent Maddie Bradford, a lonely, rebellious outsider with a mind on fire and a photographic memory. It is 1861, the Civil War has just started and this motherless teen must move with her soldier-father from New Hampshire to Washington, DC-a city at war, packed cheek by jowl with soldiers, Rebel spies, slave catchers and traitors of all stripes bent on waging a war of destruction against the Union, and President Lincoln himself.

Maddie's journal, written in secret, of course, begins with her arrival at her aunt's DC boardinghouse through the first year of the Civil War, a time, as Maddie puts it, full of "dips and dangers," when she becomes a fearless Union spy. And then there is the mysterious, maddening Jake Whitestone, a young man who awakens something equally dangerous in Maddie: Love in a time of terror.

Civil War historian, author and lecturer Jane Singer brings her unique voice to Alias Dragonfly.

When I saw that this was a book about a Union spy, I expected it to be filled with suspense and action. However, the story lags for the first half--I would not have finished this novel if I hadn't wanted to see the spy action--and then runs too quickly in the second half. Even then, it ends all too soon without much spy action.

The beginning is about Maddie's dad joining the Union army and Maddie worrying about him while adjusting to life in her Confederate-sympathizing aunt's boarding house. In fact, Maddie doesn't officially meet the spies until midway into the book and even then it is mostly about her learning how to be a spy.

I wanted to see more of Maddie's life and training as a spy. The novel ends before more is revealed about the rebel spy that looks like Maddie and how Maddie deals with said spy being out to kill her. It is one of the most unique plot angles to the story, and it isn't developed! I was also disappointed that there isn't as much danger to Maddie and Jake's relationship as the synopsis suggested.

While I am disappointed about the lack of action as suggested by the synopsis, I did love the characters. Maddie is a fun character. She isn't just an independent-minded woman in a time when they were expected to be domestic caretakers. She is fun, witty, and has the power of photographic memory. I love her fellow spies, all of whom have unique traits, and Jake adds a sweet romantic element to the story, though their love seems to blossom out of the blue.

Historical fiction lovers will love the Civil War setting. If you're an avid YA reader, however, there isn't sufficient plot development, and the story ends before it feels like the story is over.

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An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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