Pretend you live in Manhattan, across the street from a little park. Now pretend you wake up one night and the park has sunken into the ground and left a big hole. Wait, it gets weirder! Pretend you see a mud-covered creature climb up out of the hole using a rope, and it waves at you. What would you do? If you're twelve-year-old Ananka Fishbein, you sneak out of the house and climb down the hole. Once down the hole, you might find a secret room. (I say "might" because I'm not sure which park you're imagining, but for the sake of argument let's assume you live across from the same park.) In that room you would find a trap door that leads to what appears to be a never ending hallway of closed doors. This, my friends, is the Shadow City.
The Shadow City is entirely underground. No one knows how far it runs, how many rooms there are, or even where it all leads. Most people don't even know it exists, except for Ananka, and the mud-covered thing that waves like British royalty. Ananka has about a million questions about the Shadow City, the mud creature, and the new girl in school that no one has ever seen before, the one and only Kiki Strike.
Who is Kiki Strike? She's not about to tell. But she has put together an amazing assortment of girls. The Irregulars are misfits, borderline delinquent, unappreciated, Girl Scout rejects, and they've never met until Kiki came along. Ananka is curious and courageous, and has access to a vast peculiar library that her parents call home. Luz Lopez is a mechanical genius, she can design pretty much anything and make it work. DeeDee Morlock is a chemistry whiz, explosives and poisons are her specialties. Betty Bunt is a master of disguise who hasn't been seen, as herself, in four years. Oona Wong is the best hacker and forger in Manhattan. Kiki Strike is, well, Kiki; no one ever seems to get around to figuring out why or what she's masterminding. Together these girls will explore, map, and ultimately control the Shadow City.
I loved this book! After awhile, you get so wrapped up in the intrigue and adventures you forget, like the rest of the girls, to ask why all of this is happening. It's exciting, confusing, and completely absorbing. I didn't want to put it down, and my sister kept getting mad at herself for falling asleep while she was reading, even though she was completely exhausted. One of the most fun parts of this book, aside from the story itself, are the interesting and surprisingly useful lists at the end of each chapter. They include things like "How To Take Advantage of Being a Girl," "How to Catch a Lie," "How to be a Master of Disguise," and "How to Kick Some Butt." It also includes information about other underground cities, various New York City landmarks, and more. KIKI STRIKE is definitely geared towards girls, but far from too girly for a boy to appreciate.
The story, while complete in and of itself, is still a bit open-ended. I hope that means we get to see more adventures from Ananka, Kiki, and the rest of the Irregulars. Kudos to Kristen Miller, and can I join?
Reviewed by: Carrie Spellman