First in a series
By Gitty Daneshvari
Available now from Little, Brown BFYR (Hachette)
Gitty Daneshvari, author of the School of Fear series, is back with the first in a new series: THE LEAGUE OF UNEXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN. While I love the premise, I think this will be the only book in this series I try.
THE LEAGUE OF UNEXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN posits that children who are unremarkable, forgettable, utterly average make the best spies. Very few notice them in the first place, and no one remembers them. (The book promptly deflates its own premise by having the children accompanied by an adult, because there are many places where unaccompanied twelve year olds are quite noticeable.)
The issue for me was that Daneshvari never convinced me that Shelly and Jonathan are completely average. Shelley's wacky outfits are described in detail, as is her habit of just making up sayings and otherwise saying nutty stuff and trying to take it back. She's funny, and quirky. She has an easily recognizable schtick. She's more Stargirl than Jane Doe. Jonathan seems a bit more uninteresting on the surface, although surely a kid wearing khakis isn't an identifiable trait with the current school dress codes. Daneshvari makes it clear that unexceptional kids are not losers, yet doesn't support it well with the text. Most people (that is, the average) are at least kinda good at one thing. Shelley and Jonathan seem to have no talents aside from being easily overlooked.
The plot centers around a kidnapped Vice President. The current league members might be compromised, so Shelley and Jonathan are recruited. They fail their training, but are sent out into the field anyway. However, they aren't alone: they're teamed up with a pair of exceptionals from Britain.
I like the central message of THE LEAGUE OF UNEXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN: everyone has something to offer. The book is lightly humorous. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but I just don't think it hangs together. I'll always love books about kid spies, but this one is a miss for me.