cover image The Squad: Perfect Cover

The Squad: Perfect Cover

Jennifer Lynn Barnes, . . Laurel-Leaf, $6.99 (275pp) ISBN 978-0-385-73454-7

Barnes launches a teen spy series with this campy and thoroughly addictive read. Sixteen-year-old Toby Klein, a tough-girl loner who'd rather sit in detention than pump up a game-day crowd, is appalled but intrigued when she receives an invitation to join the super-popular varsity cheerleading squad at Bayport High. Then she learns the squad is a cover for a top-secret group of teen girl government operatives whose mission is to protect America at all costs. Readers will easily suspend their disbelief to follow the exploits of these party girls whose picture-perfect appearances conceal their skills as brilliant profilers, linguists, weapons experts and computer hackers. Barnes (Platinum ) handily blends scenes of mundane high school life with espionage as the girls sport necklaces with built-in microphones and bulletproof push-up bras. This over-the-top tale never takes itself too seriously, much like Charlie's Angels (to which Toby occasionally dryly refers). Despite a prolonged lead-up to the girls' first mission and an annoying younger brother who pops up too often, this is a terrific guilty pleasure. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)