Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Summary: Jake McCauley is a patriotic American at the height of the Cold War, wanting nothing so much as to have his father back with the family. His dad was MIA in World War II, and all Jake has is a blurry photo of him holding Jake as a baby. When his mother unexpectedly rents out his dad’s old study to a Russian named Mr. Shubin, Jake is sure he’s a spy, and is determined to reveal his true identity using techniques from his favorite comic, Spy Runner. The kids at school hear there’s a Russian in his house, though, and Jake gets labeled a Communist and is ostracized by his former friends. A man with gold teeth lurking outside his house at night, a black Buick following him all over town, and Shubin’s odd behavior turn Jake’s life upside down, as he becomes increasingly determined to find his father, unmask Shubin, and prove he is a loyal American once and for all. 352 pages; grades 4-8.
Pros: Middle grade novel or Cold War film noir? Eugene Yelchin has carved out a unique niche with this suspenseful story. The narrator (Jake) seems clueless and unreliable at the beginning, ridiculously suspicious of everyone, but a dozen plot twists later, his paranoia starts to seem well-founded. Yelchin’s blurry black and white photos of 1950’s suburbia add appropriately bizarre and sinster touches to this fast-paced thriller. A Newbery contender?
Cons: It’s a pretty intense plot, with Jake almost getting murdered more than once by an potpourri of menacing characters.