Book Review: The New Recruit

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Garmond has tried to stay out of trouble. Really. And just for the record, he didn’t start that fight with Nick in PE, but Grandma doesn’t seem to care who started it. She says that either he signs up for the Mission League or she’ll ship him off to the military academy next fall. There’s no basketball team at the military academy, so Mission League it is.

The Mission League is an organization that goes undercover to investigate and stop cults around the world, and Spencer will take part in their Juvenile Agent Development Program. Unfortunately, being an agent-in-training means spending time with a bunch of “churchers.” You know, those Yay God! type of kids. Not that Spencer’s an atheist or anything. He figures God is up there. He also figures that God doesn’t give a rip about him, and the feeling’s mutual. But becoming the next Jason Bourne is worth putting up with a bunch of “churchers,” right?

When Spencer learns that both of his parents worked as agents for the Mission League, it provides extra incentive to get involved. It might be the only way to find out what really happened to them. Under the guise of a mission trip, Spencer and the other agents-in-training travel to Russia for eight weeks. When they visit the Mission League office in Moscow, Spencer sees a picture of Anya Vseveloda—a girl who’s been showing up in his dreams.

Now he’s having visions, not just dreams, and those visions could be the key to connecting Anya with the Bratva cult. Spencer still feels like an outsider with the other teens, so he’s determined to do things on his own, but when the forces of good and evil collide, he realizes he’s in way over his head. He may have to reconsider his non-involvement policy with God.

Jill Williamson won two Christy Awards for her Blood of Kings fantasy series. She’s also the author of the Young Adult sci-fi novel Replication: The Jason Experiment. The New Recruit is her first book in The Mission League series, and Williamson said:  “I wrote this book because I wanted Christian teens to see how a non-Christian teen sometimes feels around us. Some of Spencer’s initial experiences with the Christian teens in this book stem from my own. I want Christian readers to think about how they treat non-Christians and how that makes Jesus look to a non-believer, in both positive and negative ways.”

I liked how the issue of faith wasn’t neat and tidy in The New Recruit. There weren’t any easy answers, and both Christians and non-Christians are challenged to not make assumptions about each other.

The New Recruit has the great characters, the thoughtfulness, and sense of humor that I’ve come to expect from Jill Williamson, and I loved that she worked in a reference to Shannon Dittemore’s Angel Eyes.

Watch for Jill’s new dystopian series coming from Zondervan in 2013. Captives is scheduled for release February 19th.

©2012 Kim Vandel

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