What I Liked
I liked how Aya de Leon incorporated Yolanda’s back story and showed how she got to be the person she was as a woman and as a lawyer. This gave us insight into why she would later make the decisions that she did.
I liked the social/ecological justice angle with Red, Black and GREEN! Although the Flint water crisis has gained much press, most of these instances are underreported and go unnoticed by the nation at large. Most novels that depict corporate takeovers of low income areas focus on gentrification. Usually the aspect of community health and environmental impact on predominantly Black areas is not captured in books. I think that de Leon did a great job of expressing this conflict and making us want to fight alongside the teens.
What I Did Not Like
A problem for me was the romance. I’m not really a romance reader If you look at my TBR shelves you will see a lot of mystery, thriller suspense. Historical fiction is another big section as is poetry. What you will not see is a shelf dedicated to romance. If you find a romance on my shelf it was either a gift or a fluke. Of course, I think the book would have went quite well without having the romance in it. But I know for most people that is not a deal breaker. And since I do not read romance novels I cannot even compare it to say where it stacks up as a romance.
There was a part of me that just did not like Yolanda Vance in the beginning. At first I found her very short-sighted and judgmental. She really had a hard time relating to the teenagers. We know from her background that Yolanda has always struggled to fit in. That she has always felt “other” when in all Black or all White environments. Yet she approaches the teens with her own preconceived notions. Her character arc however shows growth and maturity. She becomes more empathetic towards others, learns more about herself and gains perspective on her relationships. Personally, I feel that part of her story is yet to be told and am especially intrigued in regards to Yolanda and her father. I am wondering if Aya de Leon is planning to build a series off of this character.
As a mystery I can tell you that A Spy in the Struggle has all of the right components:
- Intrigue – A woman is found dead in the alley with a needle in her arm but all signs point to foul play.
- Conflict – Yolanda has been sent to spy on a community activist group. But is she working for the right side.
- Suspense – Not all is what it first appears. Who can Yolanda trust? As the clock winds down on this mystery we know her life is in danger but we don’t know who is coming for her.