Review: Alias Dragonfly by Jane Singer

by Jane Singer
Bell Bridge Books, 2011
ISBN13: 9781611940411
Grades 4-8
Reviewed from e-book provided by publisher through NetGalley.

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. 

I quite enjoyed this book.  Maddie proved to be the kind of character I like best, fiesty, but smart.  She is willing to lay her life on the line for what she believes in and what she believes in fiercely is family.  She has lost her mother and is determined not to lose her father.  After being sent back to her aunt's boarding house after running away to find her father, Maddie determines that the best way to get her father back in one piece is to help end the war.  So, she becomes a spy.  Her photographic memory and courageous heart aid her in her endeavors. What she wasn't counting on though is Jake Whitestone, a young man staying at her aunt's boarding house, but who is clearly not all he appears to be.  The question becomes, can Maddie help end the war without becoming lost in the lies and possibly losing her life.

While I enjoyed the characters, I found the plot rather rough. For example, the story begins with Maddie having a nightmare, a dream about something that actually happened, but the dream doesn't match up with the actual encounter and it takes most of the book to get there.  Plus, this encounter involves a character that had not previously been introduced, creating a bit of an awkward feel to the story.  Some of the subplots also didn't flow together as well as I would have liked, such as Jake's work as a secret reporter.

Overall, though, I did find the book intriguing and am looking forward to reading more about Maddie and her adventures as a spy.


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