The 16th Academy by Spencer Yacos: Review & Yacos’s Thoughts on YA Perfection

October 12, 2017 Reviews 8 ★★★½

The 16th Academy by Spencer Yacos: Review & Yacos's Thoughts on YA Perfection

The 16th Academy by Spencer Yacos: Review & Yacos’s Thoughts on YA PerfectionThe 16th Academy by Spencer Yacos
Published by Sweetwater Books on December 1st 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Thrillers
Pages: 288
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: YA (No romance, Decent amount of violence)
My rating:
3.5 Stars

Eastway Academy, a shadowy organization steeped in espionage, values obedience above all else. Although a well-trained agent in his third year, 16-year-old Davy Prince struggles to find his morals when every mission seems to put innocent lives at risk.

How will Davy react when sabotage turns an already risky job into an all-out struggle for survival?

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My Take copy3

This book is perfect for the adrenaline-junkie teen (or the wannabe adrenaline junkie-teen). It’s full of non-stop action with plenty of death and destruction along the way, but it also has believable, flawed characters that I think teens will relate to. The plot revolves around a group of teen spies who find themselves on a dangerous mission that goes south fast. They determine that someone on the inside is sabotaging them, but figuring out who is the much more difficult task. And their lives depend on it.

The book tackles the issue of moral ambiguity—each kid on the team handles the fact that they kill differently. The main character, Davy, especially, struggles with his part in missions where people are killed. On the one hand, he believes that they’re helping to rid the world of bad people, but does that mean that any actions are justified? And will he lose himself in the process?

Toward the end of the book, there are some pretty major revelations, not just about who is trying to sabotage Eastway Academy, but also about Davy’s past and why he was chosen for the academy. This was easily my favorite part of the book, and it almost got a little surreal there for a little while.

If I have one complaint, it’s simply that the book doesn’t feel particularly realistic—the kids are spies after all, and they do everything from planning missions to flying jets to taking out bad guys. I kept having to remind myself to suspend disbelief since this is the whole premise of the book. Honestly, I think my 15-year-old son would have no issue with this, though (if I can get him to pick up an ebook, I’ll have him read it!), and that’s who the book is written for.

This was a really engaging story, and I read it easily in a day.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Read on for Yacos’s guest post, which talks about why he chose to write a completely imperfect main character. I bolded some of my favorite points that Yacos made (all emphasis is mine). Hope you enjoy his perspective as much as I did!

Back on July 7th, this blog hosted a discussion on the all-too-prevalent Young Adult “perfection” tropes. It was this initial discussion which helped draw me to this blog, and since my novel The 16th Academy works hard to challenge these themes, I figured it’s finally time to put my two cents in.

I graduated from high school in June and can say without a shadow of a doubt that it was four of the most uniquely anxiety-ridden years of my life. Discussions of college begin freshman year, and the pressures from SATs, ACTs, and AP testing continued to mount. Even now I get texts from my friends still in high school worried about what college they’ll get into because some GPA number is too low or some teacher won’t write them a recommendation. This feeling of weakness is only exacerbated when we kids read about ‘ideal’ teens in YA books or watch them on TV. I remember watching Glee every Tuesday – all the characters were gorgeous high school students played by actors closer to middle age than their teen years. They all had perfect voices and sure they had their ‘problems’, but most of them would get resolved by the next commercial break and always before the credits rolled. Real high school students get no such luxury—only those inspirations and idols we are destined to fall short of replicating.

It was during those tumultuous four years that I wrote The 16th Academy. I wanted to make something uniquely different for the Young Adult genre. I wanted to write characters that talked the same way my friends and I did. When things don’t go as planned for the kids, they don’t smoothly improvise and perfectly control the situation—most of the time they freak out! They’re kids. They usually don’t have backup plans or any control over the situation. I know this because I am one.

Protagonists are often the most common subject of those tropes of perfection and superiority. After all, a beautiful, genius main character might be easy for a reader to rally around and idolize. I decided to go in a different direction. You see, The 16th Academy’s main character Davy Prince is instead an absolute trainwreck of a human being. He’s riddled with self-doubt and denial about his life, struggles to take responsibility for his actions, and often uses underhanded and manipulative tactics to get his way. If it weren’t for his ultimately sincere intentions he’d easily be one of the ‘bad guys’ in any normal YA book. Far, far from perfect, his flaws might make him very relatable to a teenaged reader, perhaps uncomfortably so. There aren’t any idols or ideal heroes in The 16th Academy, just desperate teenagers trying to survive in spectacular circumstances. The environment itself feeds off of their desperation: there’s only one way to succeed at Eastway Academy, they’re told, and any small mistake can result in you losing everything. In that regard, Eastway might be more like a regular high school than one would initially think.

The 16th Academy subverts the expectations of readers coming in expecting your usual righteous protagonist and black and white morality. Although the story is a great action-packed thriller, the quieter scenes where the children contemplate their lives and choices are the ones I enjoyed writing the most. The story is, at its core, about those of us trying to survive in a world that always expects the very best, even when that best is impossible.

About the Author

Spencer Yacos is proud to be publishing his debut novel at Cedar Fort. He has been writing on the local level as well as for magazines such as Teen Ink. Spencer was also accepted into the Emerging Writers Institute at Brown University over the summer of 2015. He looks forward to continuing with the series as he heads off to study in college.

 

Author Links:
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8 Responses to “The 16th Academy by Spencer Yacos: Review & Yacos’s Thoughts on YA Perfection”

  1. Wendy @ Falconer's Library

    The author guest post is very insightful. I need to remember some of this as a teacher. Also, it always blows me away when teenagers publish books. I liked to write at that age, but certainly did not have the focus or determination to do that!

    The book sounds like it would be a lot of fun.

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