Surfer Girl by Lynn Blackmar is an action book, basically within the spy genre, with an interesting angle: the main character is not a male spy but rather a fit, smart college girl with a board-surfing skill. Her talent brings her to the attention of CIA recruiters for an outfit (called the Misfits) specializing in the round up of the enemy's James Bond-ish toys--in this case, a hovercraft. The agents press Arena into service, and a large part of the book is about her training. Though at the beginning the setup seems a bit implausible--I doubt CIA operatives are in fact recruited this way--all seems to fall into place as the plot puts Arena under increasing pressure. The software games used as training are ingenious, a missing roommate turns up again, and so forth.
I am charmed by the author's description of how she was pursued by her characters after literally dreaming up the story. I must also say I'm not the target audience for this novel, as my reading taste runs to Thackeray, Dickens, and Austen. However, I read Lynn's short book with pleasure. I think it has a lot going for it. In terms of meeting the expectation set up by its author--"a good afternoon read by the pool"--it earns four stars from this reviewer for accomplishing what it sets out to do.
I like the way the plot marches forward, driven by action verbs. The description, while sparse, is adroit. The characters are not so distinctively drawn as they might be--a bit more idiosyncrasy might be in order. But they are likeable, and their dialogue, which dominates the book, sounds authentic . I'm interested to see how they emerge in the next book in the series. I might add the book is well edited, that this eagle-eyed English professor detected very little to fuss over.
Overall, Surfer Girl is a fast-paced, enjoyable read, a good choice for fans of action novels.
Surfer Girl is a fast-paced thriller appropriate for YA and adult audiences. It features a strong cast of characters, detailed enough but not overly detailed, such that many of them remain mysterious. The main character, Arena, is a college student who is coerced into joining the CIA when she is unwittingly thrust into the middle of a mission to retrieve hoverboard technology. She's enlisted into an oddball unit that doesn't get the respect it deserves, appropriately nicknamed the Misfits. So, the story is, in part, Back to the Future II meets The Mod Squad.
On its face, Surfer Girl is a spy novel for, I assume, a YA audience. I assume this because these spies don't do a lot of killing or even shooting, where shooting may have made their missions infinitely easier. I don't generally read YA, but I found the novel appealing even for an older audience (namely, me). And there is some killing (yippee!).
What I really enjoyed about Surfer Girl wasn't its genre's primary tenets. Certainly, the thrills were thrilling, the action was abundant and interesting, and the protagonists and the plights were worthy of continued and enjoyed reading. In that respect, the author stays true to the genre and its fans.
But she also adds mystery and, dare I say it for the first time positively, romance. Let me clarify - this is not a romance novel. The hints of possible love interests/relationships are subtle and sparse. One has to read between the lines to detect it, and it makes the reader fall for the characters and wonder how their relationships will evolve - great fodder for a sequel. The mystery, too, is ever present. The author artfully makes the reader question nearly every character's true intentions at one point or another and keeps him guessing if there is a villain within the Misfits or among their contacts without. I found this aspect of the novel the most enjoyable.
My only criticism with the novel would be its linear quality. I believe every scene other than the first is taken from Arena's perspective and follows her in chronological order until the very end. This may be common within the genre and is no criticism of the author's style, but rather a statement of personal preference. I would have liked to get into the heads of the other characters more, particularly Sterling, whom I found the most interesting. Even so, the author does an excellent job of conveying their emotions, values, opinions, etcetera as seen though the eyes of Arena.
Overall, a solid effort. It will be interesting to see how the author develops her well-contrived character base.
It was a great book and I found it to be a number of things that included funny, daring, adventurous but most of all thrilling and exciting. I really love the way you can tell that the writer is very deeply inspired by something someone might call a miracle but he calls every time you let your imagination run wild with thoughts that only he can call his own and only he can think of.