Josephine (Josie to her friends) loves her parents, has a great friend in Zoe, and is an average student who struggles with gym class and math anxiety. But her mom takes her on her business trips and her parents care for her, so things are pretty okay. But then, Josie’s mom pulls her out of class one day and she can’t remember the next three hours. Then more things don’t add up. Suddenly, her whole world turns sideways because it turns out she’s a sleeper operative for the company her mom works for! 

The Spy Who Raised Me is exactly as fast-paced and over the top as it sounds; in fact, there’s so much covered that the start feels a little off compared to the rest. We’re introduced to Josie’s so-called normal life and it serves as an important counterpoint to the later story, Although it doesn’t seem to know where it’s going in the beginning, we get one clue that things aren’t what they seem before things start snowballing. There is little time to build that creep factor of normal life not being what it seems. However, the story is funny, action-packed, and has a great example of a supportive friendship. 

The art takes some getting used to, because the entire graphic novel is in the same color palette of shades of red. It’s impressive, because the artist manages to convey different moods using warmer and cooler shades as well as adjusting saturation of the color, but it also makes it hard to always tell what exactly is going on with the lack of other colors. The linework is loose and sometimes like a sketch, which works very well to convey motion and action, but sometimes makes it hard to read facial expressions. What really helps with the sense of motion, too, is the choice to use thick black lines for movement and similar thickness on lettering for sound effects. 

I think what I appreciate most about The Spy Who Raised Me is that this is truly a spy story for teens. It doesn’t feel childish, and it doesn’t feel too adult. I’d feel comfortable recommending this to almost any teen looking for action-based comics. It could fall a little into middle grade too, depending on the reader, since there’s not any gore or sexual content that can push a material into an older age bracket. 

This is definitely a great graphic novel to add to any library’s graphic novel collection. So far, it seems to be a standalone, so there’s no worrying about keeping up with a series, and it feels fulfilling on its own. It fills that niche of a spy/action story that isn’t too mature, like Crowded or the James Bond comics, and doesn’t require knowing a whole character’s world and story like the Grayson run of the Nightwing comics. It’s 175 pages and slightly smaller than average size, but not so much so that it would have trouble showing up on a shelf with larger comics. This could also be a great choice for a young adult book club, with discussions of free will/the control of parents. 

The Spy Who Raised Me
By Ted Anderson
Art by Gianna Meola
Graphic Universe, 2020
ISBN: 9781728412917
Publisher Age Rating: Grades 8-12

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Teen (13-16)

  • Shannan

    Features Writer

    Teen Services Librarian, San Antonio Public Library | She/They

    Shannan waffled between English professor and librarian as career choices for all of college; eventually librarian won. She is a Teen Services Librarian with the San Antonio Public Library. When not running TTPRG games for their teens or teaching them how to bake, she's doing what she can to promote comics to anyone who will listen. At home they're likely deep in the middle of their latest cosplay project or watching B movies with her husband, while generally pushing the cats out of the way.

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