Book in Review: Liberty- The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me by Andrea Portes

Well, I’m back with one of our favorite regular blog segments: books in review! Today’s novel of choice is an interesting one… Liberty by Andrea Portes.

And I have mixed feelings on this one. But, first, let’s get in a quick review of what this book is actually about.

The Book Overview

The book cover and description, taken from Goodreads:

What is a hero? Paige Nolan knows.

Sean Raynes, the young man who exposed America’s unconstitutional spying techniques, is a hero, even if half the dum-dums in the country think he’s a traitor. And her journalist parents, who were captured by terrorists while telling stories of the endangered and oppressed—they were heroes, too. Or are—no one has ever told Paige if they’re still alive, or dead.

Not heroes? Anyone in the government who abandoned her parents, letting them rot somewhere halfway across the world.

And certainly not Paige herself, who, despite her fluency in five languages and mastery of several obscure martial arts (thanks, Mom!), could do nothing to save them.

Couldn’t, that is, until she’s approached by Madden Carter, an undercover operative who gives her a mission: fly to Russia, find Raynes, and discover what other government secrets he’s stockpiled. In exchange, he’ll reopen the case on her missing parents.

She’s given a code name and a cover as a foreign exchange student.

Who is a hero? Not Paige Nolan, but maybe, just maybe, Liberty is.

And, quick side note: if you’re a little lost just by reading those few paragraphs, know that you’re not alone.

My Review

Welp, why don’t we start with unpacking that messy roadmap of a book description, shall we?

Honestly, I don’t even think I would have bought this book if I had actually read the description first. But, you know, I never read descriptions because I don’t have time for that, so I got it just based off the cover and a quick flip-through of the pages. It just seemed like my style, so I took a chance on it. But then, you know, after I actually got the book home and had the chance to read the hardcover inner flaps… I was immediately lost.

I mean, what does “Who is a hero? Not Paige Nolan, but maybe, just maybe, Liberty is.” even mean? I still don’t know, even after finishing the book, because the name/title of the entire book, Liberty, literally never came up. Except for maybe once, but it certainly didn’t stick in my mind.

Anyway, since I don’t pay much attention to book blurbs anyway, I just dove right in and started reading. And then I figured out pretty quickly that this is just a young adult spy book (which is one of my top faves!!!), and I kind of wish that the book description would just come right out any say that to begin with. Our main character is, in fact, Paige, too, and whoever “Sean Rayes” is isn’t mentioned until about halfway through the whole story. But, to keep things simplified, just know that Paige is trained in martial arts and is picked up by some type of international intelligence agency after showing off her fighting skills in an Applebee’s. After that, she becomes a spy and is sent to Russia as a “foreign exchange student” to find and protect some big-ish name celebrity (Sean Rayes, actually, but, again, his name doesn’t really stick for quite some time).

Now, let me say that I had quite the love and hate kind of relationship with this book. I tried to really stay optimistic and wanted to enjoy it, but then something would come up that would really annoy me and set me off on a pessimistic course until something funny would come up and change my mind back. I mean, it’s a rollercoaster, okay?

For example, Paige’s personality was… just not realistic. For one thing, she said that she had mental and social anxiety a lot, and she absolutely felt awkward and uncomfortable in any close relationship, specifically romantic ones, yet she had “3 boyfriends” that she was close enough to hook up with any time she wanted. I’m just being honest—it doesn’t add up, and it felt like the hookups were just added in for the sake of being added in.

As for another example, since majority of the book was set in Russia, there were a LOT of Russian stereotypes that came up a LOT. Like the Russian “accents” that were written more like bad text messages than real sentences or the mention of vodka every other paragraph. Though, as someone who has learned basic Russian language, I can say that, if anything, the quick phrases and words mentioned in Russian every once in a while were accurate, although they were really basic, so they’d be hard to mess up (like Red Square—Красная площадь). Also… the fact that this is another spy novel that takes place in Russia kind of makes me want to sigh; like, there’s hundreds of other countries to write about, especially when it comes to International espionage.

However, there are some good things in this novel, too, don’t get me wrong. Like, it is actually funny! And, there were a lot of places throughout that make me chuckle out loud. Off the top of my head, I’d say the best scene is the one in which Paige is gifted a calendar of Russian President Putin in shirtless poses by her Russian roommate, and she makes a comment along the lines of, “Thanks, I’ll be sure to masturbate to this later.”

The action scenes of this novel are pretty great, too. I mean, I would have liked them to be a little more descriptive and a little tiny bit longer than just one paragraph at a time, but they still got me into the whole world of secret agent work. There’s just the right kind of fighting and adventure you’d expect from a spy book, like hand-to-hand combat and weapon flinging, and if that’s what you’re looking for, then you could definitely give this book a try!

And also… you know I couldn’t just review another teen spy novel without giving a short shoutout to my own, right? So, let me just point out that my own YA book, Cartoon, is kind of similar to Liberty in a few ways. I mean, aside from the fact that it tells the tale of an awkward teen girl who finds herself spontaneously flung into the heart of action-packed espionage, it’s funny and has just the right amount of soft romance. Though… you know, I’m just gonna say it: Cartoon doesn’t have as confusing of a description.

“Amnesia (or ‘Nesia, or Mae, or Mable-Ann Rosemary Brown, or whatever her name is now; she can’t remember) is a teenage girl who just woke up one day and became a world-renown spy. Literally: she woke up from a coma in an unfamiliar building surrounded by dead bodies and the need to save herself from whoever is after her. 

Of course, she doesn’t do it all alone. Ace, the experienced secret agent with a constant yearning for danger, gives her hand—not just with sneakily fighting off the bands of criminals determined to take over the world, but also with remembering who she is, where she’s from, and where she’s meant to go.”

But, ahem, back to Liberty here…

Liberty: The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me is not a bad book, not by a long shot. It does have its flaws, as most books do, but it’s still a nice example of what a funny YA spy book can be.

If you’ve recently (or not so recently) read Liberty, let me know in the comments! And, please, share your own review, because I’m now I’m trying to decipher what “The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me” part of the title is actually supposed to mean in terms of the novel’s characters, too…

–Kari

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