As I grew up, I naturally began reading more adult books. They still had aspects of fun, but also included more serious themes of responsibility, identity, growing pains, darker themes of loss and death, and hormones. The books I read in primary school that gave me my first taste of this “grown-up” stuff were the Spy High series written by A. J. Butcher.
Andrew James Butcher, better known as A.J. Butcher, is an English writer best known for the futuristic teen spy series, Spy High. Butcher taught English at both Poole Grammar School and Parkstone Grammar School, in Poole, Dorset, and currently teaches at Talbot Heath School in Bournemouth, Dorset. He took a sabbatical from his teaching career to write Spy High Series Two. He says he has been influenced by Charles Dickens and George Orwell, but that Stan Lee, creator of many of Marvel Comics’ super-heroes, is his biggest inspirational figure.
Spy High is an English book series by A. J. Butcher about a high school for secret agents in training. It is divided into two series. The first series, consisting of six novels, are about Bond Team as a whole. The second series follows each member of Bond Team on a mission, taking place two years after graduation.
Episode 1: The Frankenstein Factory
They can hack any computer, break any code, take out bad guys with SleepShot from two hundred metres, and vanish utterly without trace. The one thing Bond Team haven’t got their heads round is, er, bonding. Jake and Ben want to kill each other, Jen thinks Lori is an airhead bimbo, and the only thing Eddie respects about Cally is her butt. All this is very bad news. Because if they don’t get it together for their first term exams, if they can’t defeat the infamous Stromfeld Program, then they can forget about ever graduating Spy High. And with a mind-wipe greeting all those who flunk out, we mean that quite literally.
I feel like my childhood reading came to a full circle with these books. I started off with six teens solving mysteries in Teen Power Inc., the somber messages on adulthood gained from Hazel Grace, and Max Remy the super spy. In Spy High we get all this: six super spy teens navigating the dark world of espionage. It felt like I had evolved. I still remember, quite vividly, the moment I found these books in my school library (first section, three rows down), exactly who was standing near me at that moment (Calvin and Joseph, two of the boys I shared tables with in class), and the weather (a hot, humid summer). This was in year 6, when I was 11, ten years ago. I haven’t read any of the books since then but I still remember the first paragraph in detail: a view of Deveraux Academy which was the cover school of Spy High, and the hologram of football players on the field to make things seem normal.
Honestly, these books are ones I seem to have less memory of, but their impact on me is big enough that when I think of primary school and the books that shaped me, they come to mind. And I do know, with certainty, that it was because of these books that I really started to write my own stories. I still have the papers I drafted when I was 11, of a story that was pretty much a plagiarised version of Spy High, but with three characters and magic. I mean, I used to write before, but these books got me deep into it.
So I just want to say thank you, A. J. Butcher, for easing me into books that had more darker themes, for giving me even more love for the spy genre (as if I needed more), but also for all the fun in between. I do remember the snark of your female characters and how strong they were. Thank you for being the final push that filled me with a passion for writing. Also, Not Thank You, for all the frustration since then. 😛