A CIA prodigy’s cover is blown when he accidentally becomes an internet sensation in #Prettyboy Must Die, inspired by the #Alexfromtarget story.When Peter Smith’s classmate snaps a picture of him during a late night run at the track, Peter thinks he might be in trouble. When she posts that photo–along with the caption, “See the Pretty Boy Run,”–Peter knows he’s in trouble. But when hostiles drop through the ceiling of his 6th period Chem Class, Peter’s pretty sure his trouble just became a national emergency.
Because he’s not really Peter Smith. He’s Jake Morrow, former foster-kid turned CIA operative. After a massive screw-up on his first mission, he’s on a pity assignment, a dozen hit lists and now, social media, apparently. As #Prettyboy, of all freaking things.
His cover’s blown, his school’s under siege, and if he screws up now, #Prettyboy will become #Deadboy faster than you can say, ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ Trapped in a high school with rabid killers and rabid fans, he’ll need all his training and then some to save his job, his school and, oh yeah, his life.
Prettyboy Must Die brings a new dimension to the spy thrillers in contemporary YA! We follow the perspective of Jake, a black CIA operative who’s undercover at a private academy as a senior. When his position is compromised with a well-placed social media post, however, he becomes on the run as his enemies take over the academy. I really enjoyed this story as a light-hearted contemporary. Because the synopsis is a bit far-fetched, I came into the book looking forward to the unrealistic escapes and spy situations. Readers interested in this one should be aware of those pursuits and the overall light-hearted atmosphere of the story.
“Maybe now it’s time to panic.
#Prettyboy is trending in Denver.”
We start the book with Jake in Ukraine, undergoing a Top Secret Important CIA mission. When his target dies in front of him though, he’s technically fired and retreats back to America to go to an elite high school for the rest of his senior year. Unbeknownst to his boss, Jake is following a hacker from his previous mission and ended up at the school. Things start picking up when a random girl takes a picture of him and Tweets it – making him instantaneously internet famous.
I believe Jake’s story is partially inspired by Alex from Target – a teen bagger that had fifteen minutes of fame when he went viral on the internet. I think the concept of making an undercover CIA agent viral is cute and interesting, even if it is far-fetched. The ensuing day that the book covers is basically what happens when super smart teens gather around and scheme. Jake’s cover is blown as his enemies from Ukraine descend upon the school and take the students hostage. Now it’s up to him and a couple of other multi-talented peers to save the rest of the school and make sure everyone returns home safely.
“Right now I’d much rather be just a kid who is having the worst day of his senior year than a highly trained CIA operative – with a potentially blown cover, thanks to that stupid photo – who has a duty to do something.”
The thing about #Prettyboy Must Die is that it’s fun action from start to finish. I liken it to Mission Impossible with high school vibes. Jake is constantly on the move, while the plot keeps running. There’s never a dull moment, and the light atmosphere is maintained throughout the book. A lot of it actually reminded me of Ally Carter’s spy novels, which I only read one of (The Heist Society back in middle school, which was actually pretty good!). There’s a lot of implausible moments, but everything remains light and cute.
I really liked Jake’s character. He’s exceptionally charming (even as he tries to stay under the radar) and is good at pretty much everything – from hacking to chemistry to fighting. I enjoyed his relationship with one of his only friends, Bunker, as well as seeing him try to narrow down who the hacker is. Jake’s dedication and passion to his job was clear to see, even as he made mistakes in the name of catching the bad guy. There’s also a light romance with a popular, smart, biracial girl Katie who may have more secrets than Jake is ready for.
The light atmosphere in Prettyboy Must Die also extends towards the way the antagonists and adults are handled. Basically adults are a bit useless in the school as the students save the day, and the antagonists are one-dimensional villains that always have something up their sleeves. This part was particularly cheesy, as even in the resolution we hear certain antagonists lay out their whole plan. I could easily imagine a certain one twirling their mustache while speaking with an accent.
I’d recommend readers to come into this book looking for a cheesy YA spy thriller. The technology, logic, and tactics are rather interesting, even if they can be implausible at times. And yet, the light-hearted tone of the book creates a fun (even fluffy) atmosphere that readers can get engrossed in. Action lovers will really like this one, and in general it was just a tad silly and mostly exhilarating – I definitely had smiles on my face while reading.
Thank you Tor Teen and YATL!