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Blonde Ops: A Novel Hardcover – May 6, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Student (and hacker) Bec has been in trouble plenty of times before, but this time is different. Instead of being sent to yet another boarding school, she's shipped off to stay with her mom's college friend Parker in Rome. Fashion magazine editor Parker's next assignment is big: to run photo sessions of the First Lady during her visit to the Italian capital. When Parker is seriously injured in an accident, Bec suspects a more sinister explanation and uses her hacking skills to investigate. The teen also has her hands full with juggling the affections of cute Italian messenger Dante and sexy fashion blogger Taj. Tension mounts as clues reveal that the First Lady's life may be in danger, and the hacking fashionista stops at nothing to unravel the mystery. Bec's narration is sincere and intriguing, but readers will find it difficult to connect with her. While her hacking skills are good, they are nowhere near as advanced as one of the "bad guys," yet she is able to thwart the operation with only a little help. Most of the characters remain two-dimensional, and the fashion focus, including tips at the beginning of each chapter, feel tacked on and not completely integrated into the plot. A fun read for those who can suspend their disbelief.—Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ
High-school junior Bec Jackson is expelled from her sixth boarding school in three years for hacking into the school’s computer system and changing grades. Against her will, she is sent to Rome to intern for Parker Phillips and her high-fashion magazine, Edge. When Parker has an accident just before the First Lady arrives for a photo session, and made-of-steel former supermodel Candace Worthington takes over, all hell breaks loose. On top of that, Bec has to deal with bitchy models, CIA agents, a handsome Italian on a Vespa, and a suave fashion blogger—all while trying to find out where Parker is and what happened to FLOTUS. The only person Bec can trust is herself as the plot twists and turns in this hypercharged thriller of fashion, high-tech sleuthing, and power, with bella Roma as the backdrop. Close calls, mysterious phone conversations, surreptitious whispers in office corners, and a clandestine conversation in a dark warehouse make for highly improbable, but also highly entertaining, escapist fun. Grades 8-11. --Jeanne Fredriksen
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Bec is a high school student who enjoys hacking into other people's computers. She's been kicked out of yet another school, to the dismay of her mother. She finds herself in Italy, the temporary ward of Parker, a magazine editor and friend of her mother's. Bec's parents are too busy with their unnamed careers to spend time with their daughter. Bec is dismayed to be shunted off but excited about being in Italy. In no time, she's put to work as an unpaid intern at the magazine and then disaster strikes. Being nosy, and naturally concerned about her life, she begins sticking her nose in to things that are really none of her business. She's a bit naive but clever and some of the tricks she uses were a little scary while some I'd love to know how to do. Before long, she's completely involved in several related mysteries while working at the magazine, romancing several local boys, and asserting her independence.
I had problems with the overall believability of the premise but despite that I enjoyed the book. It was fun, frothy, sweet, and had just enough action to keep the story moving at a good pace; I pretty much read it in one sitting. I did figure out the identity of one of the villains early while another one kept me guessing. I kept changing my mind about that one character. The motivation I could believe but again, the how was difficult to swallow. The romances were sweet and I didn't even mind the love triangle, something I usually hate. Rome as a setting worked quite well and I felt as if could actually see the scenery, the people, and the buildings. Bennardo and Zaman have created a fun, fluffy, story with strong characters, twists and turns, sweet romance, and action.
Instead of sending her to a new school, her Type A parents arrange for her to fly to Rome where she’ll either intern or be babysat with/by Parker Phillips, her mother’s best friend from college. Despite some feelings of anger and rebellion, Bec has to admit that being in Rome, working for the editor of the fancy monthly fashion magazine, Edge, with her new credit card and three months in a fancy hotel room is appealing.
When Bec realizes she’s more a gofer than an intern and a mysterious accident lands Parker in a hospital, but nobody seems to know which one, that should be a sufficient reality check. Things, however, get better and worse, depending on what you look at. First there’s the impending arrival of the First Lady to do some photo shoots in order to promote her charity. Then there’s the really scary Candace, who steps in to run things, not to mention two hot guys. There’s Dante, the Vespa-driving courier, sweet, and happy to show her his Italy, then Taj, a mysterious and magnetic teen fashion blogger appears on the scene and Bec is torn.
Add in a Marx Brothers-like cast of characters, some magazine staffers, some secret service agents and a few who might be red herrings, and you have a delightful romp. Part romance, part mystery, all fun, it’s a great read for teens who like suspending a bit of reality to enjoy a good literary ride.
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