From the book jacket: Life will never be the same for Ananka Fishbein
after she ventures into an enormous sinkhole near her New York City apartment. A
million rats, delinquent Girl Scouts out for revenge, and a secret city below
the streets of Manhattan combine in this remarkable novel about a darker side of
New York City you have only just begun to know about.
Comment: Seventh grader Ananka Fishbein's life at the expensive Atalanta School in New York is "flavorless mush" until the morning a huge (but temporary) sinkhole appears in a park across the street from her house. No one else is awake to see it, so Ananka sets out by herself to explore the sinkhole and discovers a hidden subterranean world. Soon after, she meets pint-sized, mysterious, martial arts expert Kiki Strike at school who introduces her to a group of 12-year-old girls who call themselves the Irregulars with skills that go far beyond the Girl Scout handbook, including hacking, lock picking, forging, explosives, chemistry and engineering. Ananka joins this motley band of courageous girls as de facto archeologist/mapmaker and, together, they set out to explore the rat-infested tunnels under New York known as the Shadow City, and foil the dastardly plans of the inscrutable gangsters who are plotting to attack the city.
Miller's fast moving, streamlined writing style draws girls into the first volume of this planned series offering courage and derring-do in abundance; multiple side plots involving an exiled princess, stolen jewels, federal agents, kidnappers and more adds depth, and notes from Ananka's guidebook of essential skills ("how to take advantage of being a girl", "how to be a master of disguise", etc) enhance each chapter, often giving clues to what might come. Some reviewers feel that Ananka (who narrates the story some years later) is a little too smug for her own good and that Kiki's motivations are not as wholesome as they might be; but, overall, most critics and readers look forward to further adventures from this band of strong, street wise, girls who show that girl power rules and it's cool to be clever.
Kiki Strike is targeted at grades 5 to 8, but our own reading and scanning of reader reviews at various sites indicate that it's likely to appeal to girls at the top end of the age scale, and beyond - Perhaps it is in recognition of this that the author has her characters age two years in this first book - they start off 12 years old but are 14 by the end.
Future volumes in the series will be narrated by Ananka but with different girls taking center stage. Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb will publish in October 2007.
This review is from the June 25, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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