Harper Children's, 244 Pages
US Release Date: October 16, 2012
Format: finished copy
Source: author for review - thanks Fleur!
One's a Secret Agent, One's Not.
Twelve-year-old Linc is a trouble-maker with a dilemma. His antics on a recent school field trip went way overboard, landing his already poor family with a serious lawsuit. So when two secret agents show up at his house, Linc is eager to take them up on their offer to make the lawsuit disappear. They just need one tiny favor.
Turns out Linc looks exactly like one of their top kid agents—an agent who's vanished during a vitally important mission. But no debriefing can prepare Linc for how dangerous the mission really is. It's too bad he isn't a black belt, a math genius, or a distance runner like his agent double. He'll need all those skills and more if he hopes to make it out of this mission alive. . . .
---------------summary from author
I'd been trying so hard to be Benjamin Green, only to feel like an utter loser. But I never stopped to think that maybe I had some skills he didn't have. Maybe not knowing the rules of the junior agent handbook was actually a good thing.
And I was right! You guys, this is a fantastically fun adventure novel (with SPIES!) that takes us through the streets of Paris with a sarcastically real boy named Lincoln Baker and a strong, intriguing girl named Francoise as they search for an evil Mona Lisa painting that can hypnotize and control any person who stares at it. The concept is so much fun and refreshingly simple - it feels like often nowadays we try to complicate storylines with tons of various ideas, but this was was straightforward and creative. I loved it.
Lincoln is such a great Middle Grade character. He's a true boy with a streak for trouble and a penchant for mischief, but he's also a young man learning to make tough choices and be kind to others. The entire reason he takes on this mission offered to him was to help out his family. That speaks a ton about his character and how noble he is. As the novel goes through, we really get a feel for who he is; he's so much fun and has this fantastic deadpan-like outlook on what happens. I like that he gets things wrong sometimes, but he also thinks and acts. He's very real, and I know a lot of young readers will love him and relate to him. I even wrote a note how I love all the times Lincoln actually says (is that the right verb when it's writing? Hmmm...) "I'll skip past all the boring parts, but what you need to know..." because it gives such a clear Voice to him.
As a story, Double Vision really delivers! It's a great mystery adventure, filled with some great twists and fun spy elements. My personal favourites were the fun gadgets that Linc got to use (particularly one that can cause a small, distracting explosion) as well as the codes. I can't be the only one who used to make up secret codes with my friends so we could write undercover notes to each other! Usually they weren't as brilliant as we thought, or were so unendingly complicated that we couldn't crack each other's notes -- but the point is, they were so fun to make and a real part of my childhood. FT Bradley has several differing types of codes and cyphers that are incredibly interesting and completely real! I had a ton of fun learning about them, and they were worked so effortlessly into the plot that I barely realized I was learning in the first place!
This is definitely a Middle Grade novel, meaning the characters act young and have young thoughts -- as an older reader, there were a few things I wanted to happen a bit faster or better, but all I had to do was remind myself that it was meant for younger children. I'm already debating if I'm going to give my copy to my 11-year-old cousin, my uncle's middle school classroom, or a friend's 9-year-old daughter - I know all of them would absolutely devour it!
My only "complaint" (which isn't even one really) is that sometimes the plot seemed too simple, and that things were awfully convenient. But that also might be because I read Young Adult, where it's expected to have an innate complexity. There are really no issues with this book at all, all the small things I had about it were because I was the reader.
Probably my favourite element on this story is how much it emphasizes family. As mentioned, Lincoln goes on this mission in the first place to help out his family and protect them; Francoise gets involved because her father was taken and she must guard her family's legacy and the Da Vinci collection gifted to them. There's real love and strength in these relationships, and it would be fantastic for any middle grader to see that on a page.
Double Vision was a book entirely worth reading, and I can't wait to see the next mission Lincoln gets sent on. I had so much fun romping around Paris with him and trying to solve what was going on. If you dig any of Rick Riordan's novels, or just want a fun undercover spy adventure with a skateboarding, hilarious kid, pick this up. You won't be disappointed.
(Also? This would be the PERFECT Christmas gift for your middle grader!)
4.5 stars / 5
**Stay tuned for a fantastic interview with the author! It'll be up in a few hours :)