fiction / review / suspense

A Spy in the Struggle by Aya de León

I found A Spy in the Struggle a little puzzling. The concept was unique and I like how it touched on real issues and was topical (there is even a Covid-19 reference) but the main character was so flat. Her thinking was very black and white and childlike. It was very difficult to believe she was an adult woman. I finally had decided that the book must have been aimed at high school aged kids or younger (there is a storyline with student activists and the entire plot of the book is presented in a very simplistic way) when about 3/4 of the way through there is a lengthy and fairly explicit sex scene. Which is fine but hardly YA fare and honestly made me slightly uncomfortable because the main character never felt like an adult woman to me. I know she was supposed to be in her late 20s but she easily could have been a decade or more younger in her inexperience and mindset. Did the author start writing the book as YA and then decide to pivot to adult fiction? The main character isn’t someone who I could see getting a high score on her SATS much less being an undercover agent for the FBI.

One nitpicky thing— the book also kept referring to the main character a “whistleblower” but I don’t think she was—she had zero idea her company was doing anything illegal the whole time she worked there. Then one morning her big boss told her to shred some documents. She thought it was weird since that wasn’t part of her usual duties so she stuck the documents under her sweater and headed down the hall to see what they were. Then literally the next second, the FBI was there raiding the office and she still had the documents under her sweater. When questioned, she handed over the documents. Wouldn’t the whistleblower be the person who tipped off the FBI in the first place? She gave them evidence but that’s not quite the same thing. It was brought up again and again. I’m not sure why you’d write a whole book that hinges on a woman being a whistleblower and then leaping into a career of undercover work against her own community when you’re not quite sure what a whistleblower actually is or does.

I had high hopes for this book but they weren’t met. Disappointing because I had been eager to read it for many months now.

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