Jack Blank and the Secret War by Matt Myklusch

 Release Date: August 9, 2011

Pages: 525

Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks

Format: ARC

Source: Mundie Kids (blog)

Age Group: Middle Grade

Parental Warnings: none

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 The Secret War (Jack Blank Adventure)

All Ages

Picking up a year after the events of Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation, Jack and his fellow students are now well into their School of Thought training and are "sidekicking" for official, card-carrying super heroes. But, even though Jack feels more at home in the Imagine Nation, he’s still hiding secrets from his friends Skerren and Allegra, both about his shocking connection to their enemy Revile and about his “Top Secret” school assignment, which involves investigating the Rüstov computer virus that affects the Mechas. Jack is busy trying to find out how far the Rüstov sleeper virus has spread, working to find a cure, and striving to avoid the dire future that Revile warned him about. Meanwhile, Jonas Smart is working just as hard to discover what Jack is hiding from everyone. When a rogue Secreteer—the protectors of secrets of inhabitants of the Imagine Nation—starts selling secrets to the highest bidder, Smart is ready and waiting. Jack knows that if Smart finds out the truth about him and Revile, he’s as good as dead. When Jack discovers that the Secreteer causing all this trouble also has information about his father, the distractions really start piling up. If Jack is going to help prevent a second Rüstov invasion, keep Smart from discovering his secrets, and find out what a shadowy, half-mad Secreteer knows about his long-lost father, he'll need to learn to trust his friends, and to find the true path toward becoming a hero himself.

The book starts out with Jack reflecting on himself. He thinks about his newfound status as a celebrity hero with wonder, and is hurrying back to his house. He's desperately working to cure a virus that nobody knows about except for him and one other man. Jonas Smart is still working against him, convinced that Jack is hiding something. He's right, just not about what the secret is. Jonas Smart is also trying to prove that the Rustov is still a threat.When Jonas reveals an intercepted message between an undercover agent called Glave to another agent named Khalix, planning an attack to occur in five days, the entire council is struck with horror. So when a Secreteer (who keeps the secrets of the superheroes) tells the entire Imagine Nation all the secrets for the highest bidder because he wants to fund his escape from the nation before the attack, the city erupts into chaos, and panic. Jack knows that he has to act NOW to cure the virus, stop Jonas Smart from discovering his secret, and stop the Rustov once and for all.It had been a long time since I last read a middle grade novel, which I just realized, and it made me sad to realize that. So, because of Jack Blank, I am currently in an MG-frenzy. After first reading this, I dove back into my copies of Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation, Fablehaven, The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters, and several others. I really missed them. MG novels are imaginative, creative, and very satisfying. I've been reading MG for so long, and I'm happy that Jack Blank helped me rediscover it.The Imagine Nation was clever. Not only the name, which I ponder over every time I hear, but the politics within it. It was surprisingly political in the best ways.I liked hearing about Jack's problems. He had trust issues, and lied sometimes because he thought that he could figure things out by himself. He didn't even trust his best friends with everything, and carried many burdens throughout the course of the book. I liked hearing about it because it was a reoccuring flaw that hadI  lots to do with the plot and created many problems for him.My favorite part of this book was probably the descriptions of the sections of this city. There were places almost mix-and-matched in different eras, and preferences. There was Cognito, the ultimate hideout for Secreteers and people who didn't want to be discovered in the ever-changing neighborhoods. There was Varagog, a village straight out of medieval times. It was lovely to read about them and very enjoyable to hear about the creative world that Myklusch created.Jonas Smart was crafty. I wouldn't say that he was a villain, but simply a man who had a warped perception of Jack. He did the wrong things for the right questions and a question constantly brought up in his presence was "do the ends justify the means"? I liked hearing about him because he almost reminded me of Miss Jane from the 13th Reality books.The different powers exhibited by his friends were extraordinary. Trea could split herself into three people, each with a different personality and skill set. Allegra could morph herself, changing her body to accomodate their needs many times, creating a parachute, pocket, and more.It was actually pretty long (575 pages) and I enjoyed that. I love long books, because I finish books very quickly and like encountering a thick read. It may be too long for some people, but it's well worth it to read it.Jack and his friends learned so much along the way by fighting villains, creating clever fixes for things, and exploring the city. They find out more about the mysterious nature of the Secreteers, about the lengths that Jonas Smart will go to in order to save his reputation and the city, and about each other.The ending was filled with twists. There was one in particular that made me gasp and freak out until my sister got mad at me (sorry Hannah!). Fast-paced and interesting, it was incredibly intense for a middle-grade novel, and could knock some of the young adult books that I've read off their pedestals.Creative and engaging, Jack Blank teaches readers about friendship, trust, hope, and determination in his quest to stop the Rustov. This is my favorite MG of the year, and I can't wait for the next book in the series.Recommended for anybody who loves: The 13th Reality (series); Sky High (movie); The Mysterious Benedict Society; Harry Potter; X-Men; etc,.Book club questions to come.