Review: Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen
Release Date: March 20, 2018 
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Source: eARC provided by publisher via First to Read in exchange for an honest review
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Her name is Sarah. She's blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish in 1939 Germany. And her act of resistance is about to change the world.

After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He's part of the secret resistance against the Third Reich, and he needs Sarah to hide in plain sight at a school for the daughters of top Nazi brass, posing as one of them. If she can befriend the daughter of a key scientist and get invited to her house, she might be able to steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. Nothing could prepare Sarah for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she'd ever imagined. But anyone who underestimates this innocent-seeming girl does so at their peril. She may look sweet, but she's the Nazis' worst nightmare.

I requested Orphan Monster Spy from Penguin's First to Read program on a whim. It looked interesting, and I'm always in the market for a new historical fiction read. Unfortunately, Orphan Monster Spy wasn't the book for me. It's the classic case of a fantastic premise but an execution that falls short.  

Orphan Monster Spy introduces Sarah, a young adult in 1939 Germany who becomes a spy for the resistance. I'll admit that Sarah is an interesting main character. She's fearless, resourceful and cunning. The lengths by which she goes to survive are admirable, and I liked that she always had a trick up her sleeve no matter the situation. 

Honestly, she's the type of character I typically like and maybe even love, but that didn't occur here. Basically it's hard to connect with Sarah. It was difficult to get a feel for her personality and more importantly her feelings. Her narrative was incredibly cut and dry, lacking heart as well as emotion, and while in some ways I understood the reasoning behind it, I feel the narrative would've benefited for more feelings, more passion. There were so many times at which I expected a larger response from Sarah - so many times I expected here to scream and yell and just feel - but that never truly happened. Most of the time I found the secondary characters to be more interesting and  likable. Mouse, Sarah's boarding school friend, was a favorite of mine, and I felt that she managed to save this novel in some respects. Like Sarah, she's dealing with her own heartbreak, her own disaster, but I felt that her feelings were better displayed.

Given the title as well as the synopsis I was expecting a chilling spy thriller; however, that wasn't exactly what I received. There were some interesting parts, some wonderful twists and turns, but it took a long time to get to them, and sometimes that made it hard to get through certain parts of this book. I craved more action and excitement, and I wish Matt had cut to the chase sooner than later. The last part of the book was by far the most exciting, but by the time I got there I was just ready to be done, which somewhat dulled my enjoyment. 

Overall, Orphan Monster Spy didn't live up to my expectations. As I said before, it does contain an excellent premise, but a premise can only carry a book so far. Will I read other books by Matt? Maybe. I did see potential here, and I'll be curious to see if he writes a sequel to this. In some ways I feel Orphan Monster Spy was the beginning to a larger story.  

2 stars 


  1. I like WWII historical fiction, and this is an interesting and unique take on that. I'm sorry it didn't work out for you!

  2. Oh no I hate dry narratives where you literally don't feel anything from the character!! It is soooo frustrating. So sorry this fell flat for you, Lauren :( I think I'll be giving it a miss, too!


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