I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
Hyperion, 2006 Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy
Hyperion, 2007 Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover
Hyperion, 2009 Only the Good Spy Young
Since I read and enjoyed Ally Cater's novel Heist Society a few months ago and I've been on a "girls who kick ass" run lately as far as my reading choices are concerned, I decided to give Carter's Gallagher Girls series a try. Now, this post was originally supposed to just be a review of the first book, but then I really liked the second, immediately read the third, and HAD to get my hands on the fourth. Since this post therefore discusses four books instead of my usual one, this will be a long one with minimal spoilers. You have been warned.
Welcome to the exclusive Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, or as the students and staff know it, spy school. Cammie is a student, her mom is the headmistress, and she and the rest of the Gallagher Girls are "exceptional" indeed. The school's cover is that it's just another boarding school for rich girls, but the truth is that these girls are certifiable geniuses, each are fluent in 14 languages, and they all know at least seven ways to kill a man with her bare hands.
In I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, Cammie's sophomore year is off to a bumpy start. She and her best friends, Bex and Liz, are given a new roommate, Macey; their covert operations teacher, Mr. Solomon, is tough as nails; and Cammie meets Josh in town, a very normal boy who thinks she's a very normal girl. The girls decide to try the ultimate covert op so this Gallagher Girl can do the unthinkable - have a boyfriend.
The book is Cammie's mission report, and Carter captures that age and voice perfectly. The dichotomy of the girls' lives makes for an interesting plot and premise - according to testing, these girls are some of the smartest people in the world, but they're completely clueless when it comes to trying to figure out if a boy likes you.
A few times I cringed on Cammie's behalf. Did she really believe that lying to the boy she likes and sneaking out of her top secret school could end well? Without giving too much away, in the end she was able to redeem herself in my eyes. After all, people don't always make the best choices when they're 15 and relationships, no matter who you are, are complicated.
The girls are intelligent and strong, all the characters have distinct personalities and voices, and the book was a fun, quick read that kept me interested. The ending especially gave me reason to believe this series was headed somewhere, so I immediately picked up the sequel, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy.
The second novel felt so much stronger to me. I know this series is all about teenage spies, but the plot involving some mysterious visitors coming to the school felt much more plausible to me. The characters all felt a bit more solid and the story kept me guessing. Zach was a welcome addition to the cast as a fellow teenage spy who sets his eye on Cammie. Whereas scenes with Josh would make me wince because I felt no good could come of it, I couldn't wait for Zach to show up. He's smart, just a bit too confident sometimes, sweet when he wants to be, and you never know what's going to come out of his mouth. He brings out the best in Cammie, personally and professionally.
Carter takes it up another notch with the third book, Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover. Junior year brings new and exciting elements like Cammie's kick-ass aunt Abby, attempts on someone's life on the campaign trail (Macey's dad is running for Vice President), and a mysterious organization known as the Circle of Cavan. Zach is back too as the only boy who really understands what Cammie's life is like and he's still full of his own secrets. The book is packed with action and the stakes are much higher. Forget getting a boyfriend - now it's about trying to stay alive and keep people safe. It was one of those situations when I was glad to be behind on a series because I got to read the next book right away.
In Only the Good Spy Young, nothing is as it seems. Mr. Solomon, the teacher Cammie has come to known and trust over the years, is revealed to be part of the Circle (or is he?) and Zach isn't completely the good guy she's wanted to believe he was, either. For some reason, the Circle is after Cammie and if anyone knows why, they certainly aren't telling her. For the first time in the series, I was actually afraid that these Gallagher Girls and the adults around them were in trouble, and with good reason.
The series has humor, spunk, tenacity, and interesting characters, but this turn for the serious kept me interested. In the third and fourth books, it's hard to believe this is the same Cammie from book one - her character has had incredible growth and I continue to root for her. It's killing me now that I have to wait along with everyone else!
All in all, I'm really, really glad to have found the Gallagher Girls. These books are fun, fast reads showcasing intelligent girls living extraordinary lives and I truly enjoy spending time in this world of action and espionage. The fifth installment, Out of Sight, Out of Time, is due out in March, 2012.