Title: Rebel Spy
Author: Veronica Rossi
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Expected Release Date: June 23rd 2020 from Delacorte Press (could change due to COVID-19)
Format: ARC via NetGalley
Goodreads Synopsis: A re-imagining of the story behind Agent 355–a New York society girl and spy for George Washington during the Revolutionary War–perfect for fans of Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key and the novels of Julie Berry.
Rebellious Frannie Tasker knows little about the war between England and its thirteen colonies in 1776, until a shipwreck off her home in Grand Bahama Island presents an unthinkable opportunity. The body of a young woman floating in the sea gives Frannie the chance to escape her brutal stepfather–and she takes it.
Assuming the identity of the drowned Emmeline Coates, Frannie is rescued by a British merchant ship and sails with the crew to New York. For the next three years, Frannie lives a lie as Miss Coates, swept up in a courtship by a dashing British lieutenant. But after witnessing the darker side of the war, she realizes that her position gives her power. Soon she finds herself eavesdropping on British officers, risking everything to pass information on to George Washington’s Culper spy ring as agent 355. Frannie believes in the fight for American liberty–but what will it cost her? Inspired by the true “355” and rich in historical detail and intrigue, this is the story of an unlikely New York society girl turned an even unlikelier spy.
When I got auto approved for Random House on NetGalley, this was one of the books I could download and start reading. With its typical historical fiction cover, I wanted to see what it was about. Then I saw the synopsis and I immediately had to get it and read it. I learned last year that there were female spies during the American Civil War, but I had no idea that there was a female spy for George Washington during the American Revolution! Stuff like this really isn’t taught in many American schools which is a major shame. It’s stuff like this that makes history richer with bringing in the people who made such sacrifices instead of just battles, generals and dates. But I’m happy that Veronica Rossi brought this story to light because I loved it! If you do love historical fiction, especially authors like Julie Berry, Ruta Sepetys and Stacey Lee, this is for you!
We begin the story in Grand Bahama Island in 1776, where Frannie lives with her stepfather Sewel. Her mother has passed away and while she loves being a shipwreck diver, she hates her abusive and drunken stepfather. But an opportunity comes when a rich girl’s body washes up on shore and after something that Frannie did, she dons the girl’s clothes, since they look very similar. She takes on the girl’s name Emmeline Coats and assumes her life and escapes her home. I did love how we see how she is such a good swimmer and her descriptions of the ocean and the shipwreck diving! This is a plot aspect I have never seen in YA, particularly in historical fiction and it was refreshing! It’s fascinating how she describes her home of Grand Bahama Island, her roughness and the fondness of her late Spanish mother.
While I will admit that the actual spying doesn’t take place until the last half of the book, I can see why this was done. This is a very character driven story with Frannie and the author shows us her new life, conflicts and budding romance possibilities and I really card for this girl! Whenever I picked this back up, I was back in this time period and I truly enjoyed this every time I was reading. Frannie is a girl whose been hiding her true self for so long. She’s good at lying, but we see how she longs to be herself, learn some answers and also find a way to be a patriot. I appreciate that the author made Frannie an immigrant turned spy because it gives us a non-American perspective of a girl who realizes what true freedom really means. It’s a different way for a girl to see how the Americans fighting for their independence is how Frannie is trying to find her own independence.
But once she officially becomes a spy, things really get interesting! All I will say is that this book took some directions that I didn’t expect and also made things really complex and even tragic. I went into this pretty blind, having only read the first part of the synopsis before reading the book. While I have a slight con with some of her spying events being summarized instead of seen on page, I still loved how she became a spy. Men didn’t think that women were capable back then and that’s one reason why they made valuable spies. Knowing from history what a couple women did and their impact on this war was really inspiring. I have how Frannie’s capacity to become brave, compassionate and also care for others was wonderful to see unfold.
As far as side characters, they were also really interesting and added to the story. There’s Aza Lane, a young man who plants the seeds of being a patriot in Frannie before she goes to America. The mystery of what happened to him did drive part of Frannie’s reason for the cause of spying but I also loved their moments together. While they act like friends and also distrust each other and are mad with one another, their relationship was very fulfilling. Then there’s a British officer who also starts to court her and while she cares for him, she rides the line between marrying him and betraying him. There’s also the Judge, a friend of the family she lives with and he had some nice moments as well. Then there Tom Hackett, a grouchy old patriot who acts like a jerk but Frannie sees right through him and their moments of sass between each other was fantastic!
Overall: This was just a wholesome, inspiring and wonderfully character driven story! I enjoyed myself every time I went back to it and I had to know how it ends. While this review does leave out several things, I want to be more vague because I want you guys to read it with as little plot info as possible. Lovers of historical fiction will love how this inspired “what if” story comes to life on the page. I even loved the ending and how readers can interpret it how they wish. Plus the author’s note gives more insight which I loved and historical fiction like this get major bonus points when they teach me something that I never knew about. I want to read more from this author and I’m so happy that I downloaded this book. Please check it out when it releases next month! (Given the date doesn’t change)