Watch author Eugene Yelchin read the first chapter of Spy Runner

Honors

• National Public Radio’s Best Books of 2019

• Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Historical Fiction of 2019

Reviews

starred reviewSTARRED REVIEW

“Yelchin expertly deploys subtle hints about Shubin’s ties to Jake’s family, foreshadowing the impending reveal. Steeped in the paranoia and propaganda of the era, the noir tale draws parallels to the current political and social climate, nationalistic prejudices, and media-disseminated misinformation. Black-and-white pixelated images, like a trench coat–clad man’s reflection in a shined shoe, add to the sense of time and place while challenging readers to question both their validity and Jake’s suspicion of Mr. Shubin. Well-plotted and -paced, Yelchin’s thriller will be a favorite among readers who have an interest in history and intrigue."

—Publishers Weekly

starred reviewSTARRED REVIEW

“Having set readers up for a salutary but hardly unique tale about prejudice, misplaced suspicion, and the McCarthy era, Yelchin briskly proceeds to pull the rug out from under them by pitching his confused, impulsive protagonist into an escalating whirl of chases, crashes, threats, assaults, abductions, blazing gunplay, spies, and counterspies—along with revelations that hardly anyone, even Jake's mom, is what they seem. The author includes a number of his own blurred, processed, black-and-white photos that effectively underscore both the time's fearful climate and the vertiginous quality of Jake's experience. The book assumes a white default. An imagined adventure turned nightmarishly real leads to exciting, life-changing results."

—Kirkus Reviews

“Russian covert actions against the United States are nothing new. They are just different now, a point well-taken in this suspenseful spy thriller. Written by a Soviet émigré, this page-turner focuses on an impatient and confused 12-year old, Jake McCauley. Concealed cameras, FBI agents, car chases, car crashes, a blue file folder, abductions, a gunfight, double agents and family secrets figure into the roller-coaster plot. Espionage, not usual in middle-grade fiction, drives thoughtful consideration of what loyalty and patriotism really mean.”

—The San Francisco Chronicle

“Yelchin, born in Russia and who left the Soviet Union when he was twenty-seven, should not be read by new American-born children’s authors. Why? Well, if a man can live twenty-seven years in another country, then come to our own and, in the course of things, write better and more succinctly than so many of the Yanks I read in my daily work, that’s could be depressing to a debut writer. Yelchin isn’t mapping the era of McCarthyism on our current times. He’s holding it up to the mirror of where we are now, showing us the similarities between the eras, and asking what we’re going to do about it. More of this, please, Mr. Yelchin. More of this, please.”

— Fuse 8 Productions at School Library Journal

“In short order, as we read in the atmospheric action-thriller Spy Runner, the boy stumbles into a confusing double-blind of espionage in which almost nobody is who he or she seems to be, even close to home. Secret documents, subversive teachers, double agents and a thug with gold teeth: Eugene Yelchin mixes all sorts of noir elements with his own gritty black-and-white photo illustrations to craft a clever and vertiginous adventure.”

— Wall Street Journal

“There aren’t many noir thrillers out there for middle-graders, but Newbery Honor Book winner Yelchin has turned out a humdinger. Yelchin builds tension into every chapter as Jake dodges suspicious characters, discovers top-secret documents, tangles with danger, and starts questioning what he's been taught. Grainy black-and-white photos, as might be taken with a spy camera, pepper the text, further enhancing the story’s mysterious atmosphere. The action never stops, and readers will be gripped as the narrative thunders to a satisfying conclusion. ”

— Booklist

“The novel could be regarded as a conceptual companion to Breaking Stalin’s Nose, with Jake a self-deluded boy struggling to keep his footing in a time of political oppression but this time in the U.S. rather than in Russia. Yelchin’s grainy black and white photo illustrations cast ominous shadows and will surely draw browsers into the text.”

— The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Spy Runner is hardcore intrigue for the middle-grade adventure lover. The author, whose Arcady’s Goal pulled no punches about life in Stalinist Russia, here takes the opportunity to warn Americans about our government’s red-baiting that short-circuited Constitutional protections and due process. Besides a thrilling narrative, Spy Runner provides useful background on the Cold War for middle graders and young teens.”

— Redeemed Reader

Spy Runner is a book that any teacher, librarian or parent should insist on a young adult to read if they want to start a constructive discussion on politics, freedom of speech, and the media’s part in perpetuating a particular agenda.”

— The Young Folks