cover image The Athena Protocol

The Athena Protocol

Shamim Sarif. HarperTeen, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-284960-1

Athena, a secret, unsanctioned organization that protects women and children internationally, was founded by Chinese tech tycoon Li Chen, African-American former ambassador Peggy Delaney, and retired white British musician Kit Love. Protocol dictates that its agents eschew bloodshed, but after Jessie Archer, 18, helps her fellow operatives free 50 young women from a cage in Cameroon and then realizes that their captor will serve little time, she kills him. The team flees, but the incident attracts media attention, prompting Athena to fire Jessie—an especially devastating decision, given that Kit is Jessie’s mother. Jessie refuses to stay sidelined, however, particularly after she learns that Kit will serve as bait in an operation a targeting human trafficker Gregory Pavlic. Tailing Athena to Serbia, Jessie launches a solo investigation that proves far more difficult and dangerous than anticipated; she also becomes attracted to Pavlic’s daughter. First in a planned series, filmmaker Sarif’s YA debut compensates for a thin premise with an inclusive cast, ample action, and escalating stakes. Some underdeveloped secondary characters lessen the interpersonal conflicts’ heft and verisimilitude, but Jessie’s conflicted attraction rings true, and a gratifying conclusion hints at emotional complexities to come. Ages 14–up. [em](Oct.) [/em]