"SPY FOR A SPY," by Jordan McCollum, Durham Crest Books, $15.95, 307 pages (f)

Talia’s back to her secretive, spying ways in“Spy for Spy,” Jordan McCollum’s sequel to "I, Spy." While Talia tells her now fiancé that her job isn’t usually dangerous, she finds herself in yet another life threatening mission, but this time the target is her ex-boyfriend.

Shuffling at the CIA has led to the exit of her partner and boss and the incoming replacements aren’t exactly welcomed. Twenty-something Talia comes to face-to-face with Brand, the man who jaded her when she first joined the agency; they dated briefly but he left her emotionally scarred after toying with her feelings and throwing her under a bus at her new job.

To say her new work environment is hostile is an understatement. Even worse, Talia can’t bring herself to trust Brand with intelligence, work-related secrets, and she especially can’t entrust him with her life. As she embarks on her mission to follow her gut and prove Brand is as shady as she remembers from past encounters, she finds herself protecting her fiancé, Danny, from knowing her new boss is her ex-boyfriend.

McCollum intricately layers Talia’s complex personality by developing her into outrageously paranoid and protective, but vulnerable when it comes to Danny. Each chapter is a window into a complicated woman’s life.

Talia became a spy for a reason. She’s not bubbly, trusting or dependent, and when most men would run from such a fiercely independent woman, her Danny is warm and patient — something readers are often left wondering if Talia truly deserves. The paradox between Talia’s life as a spy and planning her upcoming nuptials is not only entertaining, but it reveals the cracks in her identity and how they’re filled by the promise of spending her entire future, eternity and all, with Danny.

True to McCollum’s previous works and style, “Spy for a Spy” is crafted not only for readers belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it is easily relevant to any young adult looking for a spy adventure. It is clean, including no vulgar language, described violence or sexual innuendo, and Talia encompasses an unshakeable moral core that drives each decision she makes.

McCollum has given her loyal readers a more mature Talia to love and try to understand. She’s complicated, but she’s real and learns to grapple with her problems rather than avoid them. But above all, she’s a role model for young Mormon readers: she doesn’t lower her morals or standards, and she sticks up for herself and for the people she loves.

"Spy for a Spy" has been nominated for a 2013 Whitney Award in the mystery/speculative category. Whitney Awards recognize the work of Mormon novelists.

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