When Crisis, the world's most secret international terrorist organization, who standardized the use of minors, starts activating sleeper operatives in Southern California, Tazwell Ward, aka Theron Winters, is on the job.
Being a 17-year-old paramilitary special agent in an NCS division called Juvenis, Taz has been intercepting terrorist attacks most of his young life. He might be trained for clandestine operations, but matters are about to get more difficult when his target, Mark Lewis, is an egotistical jock and grade-A bully. How in the world is Taz supposed to spy on Mark when he is so stab-worthy? How is he going to keep his focus on the mission when he's lusting after his enemy's girlfriend?
One thing is certain: Crisis is planning something big. Can Taz intercept Crisis' operation and put an end to the threat? The fate of many lives rests in his hands.
©2015 David Torres (P)2016 David Torres
Full disclosure: I received a free copy from the narrator via the audiobook subreddit in exchange for a review.
I've read (or heard) other series in the "teen spy" young adult subgenre, principally the first 2/3 or so of the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz and all of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls and Heist Society books. Between them, those series set a bar for quality that the story in Crisis fails to reach. At a couple different points in the listen, I remarked to people that I was reminded of the comment attributed to the late Roger Ebert that the best thing about being a movie critic was also the worst thing about being a movie critic: he saw ALL the movies, regardless of quality.
Let's start with the good: Mr. Ambler's performance is very well-done, including some audio effects both for adding "static" when certain characters are being heard over radios, and the inclusion of text message "sent" sounds when the teens are texting each other. Most of the voices are unique enough that it's easy to tell who's talking regardless of whether your attention has wandered out of focus briefly, which makes it easy to pick back up following what's happened in the story.
My issues are with the story. The success of the other teen spy books I mentioned hinge on the characters feeling like believable teens of the appropriate age, including their choice of diction. One of the first places that the story fell apart for me was the degree to which the POV character swears. Then there's the 17-year-old living alone in a house, even if just for the duration of the "mission." Then there's ignoring the fact that the CIA (which is the POV character's employer) has only very limited powers to operate domestically. Overall, the PoV character feels like a character a decade older whose age is just "rewound" to fit into the story.
The one place where Taz rings true is the awkwardness of teen romance.
I normally love heist/caper/spy stories, and went into this expecting to like it. My disappointments are entirely with the story and not the narration - I'd certainly listen to other things Mr. Ambler has narrated, but I'll be very hesitant to pick up something by Mr. Torres again.
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