Red, White and Covert
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
Happy July! I kicked off my Summer book list with none other than American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson. The main character, Marie, starts off with killing an intruder in her home and immediately fleeing with her two twin boys. After they flee, Marie feels as though she has no choice but finally tell the truth to her children about where they come from, why they are on the run, and that their American lives isn’t everything it seems.
What I liked…
I loved how the author decided to have the protagonist write in a journal, telling her story from the first person. The book is written to the twin boys as if she is writing every single detail from memory. I enjoyed how the author connects the disappearance of Marie’s sister, to Marie’s future clandestine assignment and the unraveling of what Marie thought actually happened to her best friend.
In terms of character development, Marie was a real life woman of color going through real life trials and tribulations in her federal job. Working at government agencies can still feel like “the good ‘ol boys club,” despite it being 2019 and women breaking all kinds of glass ceilings. Despite being the top in her class at Quantico, Marie struggles to rise in the ranks within her local FBI field office. She was always told she had to work twice as hard to receive the same recognition as her White counterparts; and was beginning to feel that in spite of carrying over this effort into her career, she still saw no recognition from her superior officer. She noticed that she’s constantly given assignments that do not assist her professional growth; when she complains to her mentor, she’s reminded to “stay in line” and “don’t rock the boat;” and, the feeling that she must repeatedly prove her loyalty and dedication to her job due to fear emanated by male supervisors who fail to promote women because they assume the woman will leave their career for their domestic responsibilities. Nonetheless, not only does she feel her own internalized pressures of success within the FBI as an appreciative compliment to her deceased sister, but she even acknowledges societal pressures within the Black community and the need to succeed so that her achievements are utilized as a promotional opportunity to encourage other Black women trailing behind her. I suppose such pressures are real in any career, for working women of color; not just government agencies. The author did an excellent job demonstrating an educated and talented woman can still be hurdled by misogynistic views; and, how the advice of “playing the game,” should be perceived as a threat to a woman’s success in the workplace, rather than collegial persuasion.
What I didn’t like…
Marie has an affair with a married man, who just so happens to be a high profile political figure, Thomas. She talks about how quickly she fell in love with him and their short-lived world wind romance. But to me, it wasn’t all that romantic at all. I thought that this mini-plot could’ve been developed more, along with the actual development of her love interest’s character. It just seemed like it was lacking or wasn’t all that believable to me. Not to say that people don’t have short-lived world wind romances! I just thought that this mini plot needed more build up. For example, there’s some flirtation, batting eyes and all of a sudden, she’s in love. She finally gets him alone. She finally sleeps with him. But that’s it. Maybe the author thought that because of their short time together, that’s all Marie really needed with Thomas. But, it just didn’t seem real to me.
I also wanted more development of Slater, her sister’s former boyfriend turned government military contractor. The author alluded to his craziness and the glimpses were small. Finally, the book ends with Marie wanting to go after Ross, Slater’s former partner. Since the book ended with Marie’s fate unresolved, I can’t help but wonder if there will be a second installment. Without a sequel, Marie’s story feels unfinished and you’re left hoping that whatever revenge she decides to take, she is successful and returns to her boys.
All in all, I’m glad I finally picked up a copy and read it. I finished this novel rather quickly since the book is seemingly fast paced. If you’ve already read Wilkinson’s first novel, leave a comment below and let me know you’re thoughts!