Australian author Fiona Palmer is popular for her rural romance novels, but has made a slight change by writing young adult contemporary novel, The Recruit. There is still a dash of romance (or rather a good-sized helping), but the book centers around a young girl, Jasmine Thomas, who is being recruited to become a secret agent.
Jasmine, or Jaz as she is known, has basically grown up at the local boxing gym, and is an accomplished fighter. She’s feisty, and doesn’t put up with the ‘mean’ girls at school. She’s perfectly capable of standing up for herself and others, and can hold her own in dangerous situations. Jaz is the ultimate kick-ass character. That in itself is impressive, but not particularly unusual in a lot of recent young adult novels. What is more impressive about Jaz is that she refuses to be pressured into making big decisions, and takes the time to consider them carefully. Even in dangerous situations, where she may appear rash, she is calculating her next move, and always plotting and planning to make sure every decision she makes is the best one possible.
My only gripe with having such a well-rounded protagonist is that there isn’t much room to grow! Jaz is a very interesting character, and fun to read, but her growth is stunted because she doesn’t have a lot to learn in this book.
Jaz is a typical teenager in some respects – she’s not sure what she wants to do when she leaves school, but she is sure that she wants it to be something worthwhile. Enter Ryan, the sexy, Stephen Amell (Arrow) lookalike, with a secret… a secret-agent sized secret. He’s impressed with Jaz’s skills, and asks her to help him out with a case. The case itself isn’t particularly important to the plot, which I thought was a shame – I would have enjoyed a little more secret agent action. The story is more of an emotional journey for Jaz as she decides whether or not she wants a secret agent life. It has its pros of course – it is exciting, uses her skillset, is ‘worthwhile’, and would allow her to spend time with Ryan – but being a secret agent isn’t all fun and games. People die, and lies become the norm.
The fact that The Recruit chooses to focus on this aspect of becoming a secret agent, rather than jumping straight into the training is an interesting one. While it prevents the book from being as action-driven as it could have been, it provides an interesting insight into both Jaz and Ryan, while giving us a tantalizing taste of what being a secret agent might entail.
Jaz and her story do move forward, but because Jaz doesn’t grow hugely as a character, and because the plot centers mostly around Jaz deciding to become a secret agent, instead of actually being one, The Recruit feels like a lengthy introduction to a larger story. Good news though, because The Recruit is only the first is Fiona Palmer’s MTG Agencies series. Perhaps we will get to see more of Jaz as she becomes an agent, which should give her a chance to change and evolve. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what Book 2 will entail!