Devil Darling Spy

Written by Matt Killeen
Review by Kristen McDermott

Killeen’s Orphan Monster series addresses contemporary issues of war, trauma, political resistance, racism, and sexism through the pulse-pounding espionage adventures of Sarah Goldstein, a teenage Jewish spy embroiled in the WWII resistance against Nazi Germany. In the first volume, Orphan Monster Spy, Sarah, trained as an actor and gymnast, attached herself to “The Captain,” a James Bond-like British agent posing as a German industrialist and took on the role of his adorable blond “niece.”

Killeen has created a brilliant heroine whose sarcasm and comic-book resourcefulness are balanced by her understandable instinct for self-preservation and some serious moral questions about the value of human life. In the current volume, Sarah travels with her mentor and protector to the Congo, where there are reports of German missionaries researching a frightening disease for use in Nazi weapons of mass destruction. She also befriends a biracial Senegalese refugee, Clementine, who seems to be an operant herself, and who raises Sarah’s consciousness considerably about the pervasiveness of exploitation and white privilege. Sarah learns the hard way that the Nazis are not the only monsters in the world, as it becomes increasingly difficult for her to know who the “good guys” really are, and which side she’s actually working for.

Some of Sarah’s insights seem a bit modern, but teens will appreciate her growing global awareness of the horrors of war and the thrilling episodes of problem-solving and escape, including a nail-biting submarine pursuit. As in the first volume, the violence is graphic though not exploitative, and Sarah’s skills strain credibility occasionally, but this is a series that offers equal parts escapist adventure and morally complex history.