The best YA books about secret spy schools for girls

Who am I?

Spy stories have always captivated me. This fascination grew after I learned that throughout history, many women worked behind the scenes as key spies. How cool is that? So, I decided to write a girls' spy school set in Jane Austen's world. Junior Library Guild said this about A School for Unusual Girls, “An outstanding alternative history series entry and a must-have for teen libraries.” Scholastic licensed the series for their school book fairs. Ian Bryce, the producer of Spiderman, Transformers, Saving Private Ryan, and other blockbusters, optioned it for film. To date, more than 600,000 copies of my award-winning historical novels are in the hands of readers around the globe.


I wrote...

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

What is my book about?

A secret spy school set amidst Jane Austen’s high society.

Stranje House is one of Regency England’s dark little secrets—daughters of the beau monde who don't fit society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, headmistress, Emma Stranje, has plans for these young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies and diplomacy in the Napoleonic war.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Harriet the Spy

Kathleen Baldwin Why did I love this book?

Harriet the Spy was one of my favorite books as a child. Although Harriet wasn’t actually attending a spy school, she was training to be a spy so she could become a writer. She observed her neighbors and friends with brutal honesty. In the end, she learned that she needed to temper her observations with kindness. This story touched me deeply. For years, I ate tomato sandwiches in honor of my beloved Harriet, and I hauled that book around with me until my copy became so tattered and worn it was unreadable.

By Louise Fitzhugh,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Harriet the Spy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

First published in 1974, a title in which Harriet M. Welsch, aspiring author, keeps a secret journal in which she records her thoughts about strangers and friends alike, but when her friends find the notebook with all its revelations, Harriet becomes the victim of a hate campaign.


Book cover of A Spy in the House

Kathleen Baldwin Why did I love this book?

I absolutely loved this series! The heroine is a young woman struggling to survive the harsh streets of Victorian England. Caught stealing, Mary Quinn is convicted and sentenced to hang. However, the Agency rescues her from the noose and provides her with an education. In return, she trains to work as an investigative agent among the upper-class society of London. These books expose the realistic darker side of that world, but if you could handle Oliver Twist, you can handle these. Lee captured the mystery and intrigue so brilliantly I could not put them down.

By Y. S. Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Spy in the House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A colourful, action-packed Victorian detective novel centred around the exploits of "agent" Mary Quinn.

At a young age, Mary is rescued from the gallows by a woman masquerading as a prison warden. She is taken to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. The school, Mary learns, is a front for a private investigation agency and, at 17, she is taken on as an agent. In her new role she is catapulted into the family home of the Thorolds to investigate the shady business dealings of Mr Thorold.


Book cover of I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Kathleen Baldwin Why did I love this book?

This delightful series is so much fun it rates a 'must have' on my list of girls' spy schools. The spy school is housed in a charming old mansion, complete with secret passages and hidden elevators. It is attended by carefully-selected, super-smart young women who train to become the Gallagher girls—spies extraordinaire. Naturally, there is a counterpart boys’ spy school. With a touch of romantic angst, this series does not disappoint. The girls are each distinct, memorable, and tons of fun.

By Ally Carter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses - but it's really a school for spies. Cammie Morgan is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (three of which involve a piece of uncooked spaghetti). But the one thing the Gallagher Academy hasn't prepared her for is what to do when she falls for an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl.

Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through a mall without his ever being the wiser, but can Cammie have a normal…


Book cover of Grave Mercy

Kathleen Baldwin Why did I love this book?

Admittedly, this is more of a school for assassins, but they’re also spies training at a nunnery in ancient Brittany. The medieval setting feels authentic and fascinating. The plot is a little darker, especially in the beginning, but masterfully written. And I fell in love with the characters. Reading these books, I felt as if I was there, experiencing every scene, living through every action, and I can still remember years later. That’s great storytelling!

By Robin LaFevers,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Grave Mercy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
     Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high…


Book cover of Etiquette & Espionage

Kathleen Baldwin Why did I love this book?

I cannot resist Gail Carriger’s tongue-in-cheek writing style. If you enjoy quippy hilarious steampunk, don’t miss Etiquette & Espionage. It is a finishing school for young ladies set amid a Victorian world peopled with vampires, werewolves (some nice and some not so nice), cute cuddly mechanimals, and evil automatons. While these young ladies are being trained in the “art of dance, dress, and etiquette, they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course.” It is a hoot and a half! Carriger writes Victoriana as no one else can.

By Gail Carriger,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Etiquette & Espionage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners-and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might…


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Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

By Christina Weigand, Rhomda Chieduch (editor),

Book cover of Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

Christina Weigand Author Of Palace of the Twelve Pillars

New book alert!

Who am I?

My faith is a driving force in my life. Writing and dragons are my passions after my family. When not writing I mentor young people in their own writing. I’ve taken several writing courses and continue to study and work on honing my craft. Dragons serve as messengers of God in my books. I studied dragon lore and found the dragons an excellent vehicle for sharing God’s message. The dragons play a sentient, teaching, guiding role in the books they are featured in. That doesn’t mean there aren’t bad dragons to challenge the characters and the good dragons. 

Christina's book list on dragons with a Christian message

What is my book about?

When the head of an ancient Samaritan family is injured, it throws the family into turmoil. There isn’t enough money to pay the hefty Roman taxes.

The daughter, Chana, is taken as compensation and forced into slavery inside a cruel centurion’s home. As a slave, Chana witnesses the miracles of Yeshua. They give her hope as she stands up to the abuses of the centurion’s children and survives unspeakable atrocities.

When the centurion travels to Jerusalem, Chana is unaware of her family's presence in the city. But the holy city brings nothing but horror when Chana witnesses the crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. Naftili, Chana's brother, is taken as a slave in the same house as his sister, where he discovers that Chana isn’t the same girl he grew up with.

Their fate to live a life as slaves seems impossible to overcome until they are rescued by dragons sent from God. But all is not easy as their faith journey continues. They will encounter obstacles designed to prevent them from becoming Dragon Guardians, faithful followers who spread and protect the Word of God.

Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

By Christina Weigand, Rhomda Chieduch (editor),

What is this book about?

When the head of a Samaritan family is injured, it throws the family into turmoil. There isn't enough money for the hefty Roman taxes. The daughter, Chana, is taken as compensation and forced into slavery in a cruel centurion's home.

As a slave, Chana witnesses the miracles of Yeshua. They give her hope as she stands up to the abuses of the centurion's children and survives unspeakable atrocities.

Unaware of her family's presence in Jerusalem, the holy city brings nothing but horror when Chana witnesses the crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. While struggling to overcome her traumas, her…


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