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*Snakehead (Alex Rider Adventures)* by Anthony Horowitz- young adult book review  
Snakehead (Alex Rider Adventures)
by Anthony Horowitz
Grades 7+ 400 pages Philomel November 2007 Hardcover    

Fourteen-year-old Alex Rider, the teen James Bond-like spy hero of his own series of books, is back again in Snakehead by Anthony Horowitz. The title refers to various Asiatic Mafia types of criminal operations called “snakeheads.” While Bond’s nemesis often was SMERSH, in Alex Rider’s world, the equivalent is SCORPIA (an acronym for “sabotage, corruption, intelligence, and assassination”). Major Wu, the head of one of the largest and most ruthless snakeheads - as well as being one of the seven most important members left alive of SCORPIA - is the criminal mastermind Alex faces in this latest book in the series. If you like reading engaging, suspenseful, action-packed books with teen spy heroes, or are already a fan of the series, you’ll want to sink your fangs into Snakehead .

Snakehead begins where the last Alex Rider book, Ark Angel, left off: with Alex plummeting to earth “a hundred miles from outer space” in a space capsule after defeating the bald ecoterrorist Kaspar in a knife fight held in the Ark Angel space station. Alex Rider made sure this operation was “the lowest point in Scorpia’s history” by defeating them and causing the death of their leader, Mrs. Julia Rothman.

Rider lands in the ocean off the coast of Australia. Soon after being rescued, he’s asked by Ethan Brooke, the blind chief executive of the ASIS (Australian Secret Intelligence Service), to work undercover with a man called Ash to discover more about Major Wu’s snakehead and their part in smuggling illegal aliens across international borders. Though reluctant at first, Alex agrees when he’s told that Ash is his godfather. With both of his parents (who were MI6 agents) dead, Ash is a way for Alex to gain more knowledge about his parents and how and why they died.

Ash and Alex go undercover disguised as Afghanis, a father and son, who want to begin a new life in Australia. The action takes them to Jakarta, where they meet with the unsavory character Mr. Anan Sukit to obtain counterfeit identification papers so they can enter Australia. Alex is supposed to play the part of the idiot son of Ash and not say a word to anyone. He doesn’t know, though, that the operation has been compromised from the very beginning, and that Major Wu knows everything they’re doing and where they are at all times. He is merely toying with him until he decides to kill Alex.

SCORPIA and Major Wu’s main mission in Snakehead is, in the words of Scorpia’s current leader, Zeljan Kurst, “to assassinate eight extremely important people exactly one month from now. They will all be in one place at one time, which provides us with the ideal opportunity. It has been left to us to decide on the method.” The eight will meet when the G8 Summit also meets, on Reef Island near Australia. But the deaths need to appear to be from natural causes.

SCORPIA hits upon the idea of stealing and using a Royal Blue bomb. Major Wu will detonate it along an underwater fault line, creating a tsunami that will cause a hundred-foot wave to destroy Reef Island. The wave will continue on until it hits the coast of Australia, and possibly result in the deaths of ten to twenty thousand other people. Alex now needs to find out where the bomb is and, once again, attempt to thwart SCORPIA’s plans.

Snakehead is written for a teen audience, primarily, but it has enough action, suspense, and intrigue to also make it a book adults can enjoy. When Alex is caught by Major Wu, who intends farm out Alex’s body parts to the highest bidders, there seems to be no way Alex can escape and continue his mission. Major Wu is a perfect villain for this book, full of the types of kinks and quirks Bond villains are also famous for having, such as having a bone disease which makes his bones very brittle and prone to shattering. If you’re a fan of spy fiction and Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and movies, you’re sure to also like Snakehead and the entire Alex Rider series of books.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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