Book Review: “Moving Target” by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Cassie Arroyo’s life isn’t that exciting. Sure, she gets to attend 8th grade in Rome, but with an art history professor for a father, how thrilling can things get? Very, as it turns out! It’s a day like any other before Cassie’s father, panicked, drags her into the car and tells her they’re leaving the country because a group known as the Hastati is after them. Before he has time to explain, he’s shot, and as he’s whisked away to the hospital, he tells Cassie to go to a mysterious monastery. One thing’s for sure – her life isn’t boring anymore.

With the help of her best friend, Simone, Cassie makes her way to Brother Gregorio and his surly nephew Asher, where she learns the shocking truth. The Hastati is an organization that seeks to protect the world from the Spear of Destiny, a powerful weapon that has been used across the centuries in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts. It turns out that Cassie is one of the few with the ability to wield the spear – which has been missing for many years – making her a threat to the Hastati, who would kill her rather than take the chance that she might use the weapon. Can she find the spear? Can she save her father? And what’s more – can she find out who she really is?

I really enjoyed this fast-paced middle grade thriller! It’s got all the must-have elements of the best international capers: glamorous foreign city, badass heroine, shady secret organization, secret codes, intrigue, and more. I love that this thriller has a girl as its central character and progresses without a love interest in sight. I love even more that Gonzalez flips the all-too-common trope of having the two-boy/one-girl friendship conglomeration (Why is this so common in MG/YA?!), focusing mainly on the friendship between Simone and Cassie, with Asher being a later addition to their crew.

It’s also nice that even though Simone is incredibly wealthy, she still plays sidekick to Cassie. It’s not too often that an extravagantly rich character is neither a hero nor a villain but simply a friend. If that’s not enough boundary pushing, Cassie is also a heroine of color! I absolutely love how this book pushes back against the typical and flawed “defaults” of wealth, gender, and race we see all too often in popular middle grade.

Beyond all that, it’s just a really fun read. Moving Target will keep you engaged right up until the very end, and soon enough you, like me, will be clamoring to find out what Cassie gets up to next!

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.