Sophie Deen (text) and Anjan Sarkar (illustration), Agent Asha: Mission Shark Bytes, Walker Books, July 2020, 240 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781406382723
Asha Joshi has been tasked with an important mission for the Children’s Spy Agency: find out what is bringing down the internet.
I don’t know if Mission Shark Bytes is the first in a series, but I certainly hope it is. I remember reading Nancy Drew books as kid and loving every minute of them. Later on, I realised that I wasn’t seeing a girl like me investigate any crimes like Nancy Drew did, and wasn’t sure I ever would.
This is why I appreciate Agent Asha so much – right there on the cover is a young Indian girl, long brown hair and brown skin dressed in a spy suit who is off to save the internet with her Drone and robotic hamster, Tumble.
Mission Shark Bytes introduces us first to Asha and her family, and most importantly her love for computers and coding. The Drone is designed to watch over her and make sure she does her homework, but Asha has managed to bypass the parental controls so she can make Drone do what she wants – like not tell her parents when she follows the secret instructions in an email in code, no less, to go to the library. There she, Tumble and Drone are introduced to the CSA, and the small problem they’re having: someone is interfering with the internet, and people are losing their connection to it.
Who is the culprit? A tech genius and trillionaire: Shelly Belly.
Asha is tasked with infiltrating Shelly’s company to find a file called Operation Deepwater, which holds the secrets to how Shelly is training sharks to destroy the internet cables under water, connecting countries.
Sophie Deen has created an intelligent, brave — and a bit of a reckless character — in Asha. And I liked that Asha isn’t perfect. She’s going to disobey the rules, sure, but she also the bears the consequences. Coupled with Deen’s fast-paced writing, this book just flew by!
Another thing to mention is the wonderful humour in the book. Even though this is super-secret spy-business, one of the tools Asha gets to help her on her mission is a selfie stick, coded to Asha’s fingerprints. It can be used to look around corners but be warned – if you are not supposed to be using it, it will release an epic fart smell! Deen has peppered this novel with instances of side-clutching humour, even as Asha is determined to save the internet.
I also want to highlight the illustrations by Anjan Sarkar, who brings Asha, Tumble and Drone to life in these pages. The illustrations are just as important, and funny, as the text, with Sarkar creating case files from the CSA for Asha, as well scenes of chaos from the streets as the internet goes down and scenes from her mission as she frantically tries to get the information she needs from Shelly.
I sincerely hope this is the first in the series! I will gladly follow Asha Joshi on her next mission!!
Reviewed by Verushka Byrow