Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mystery: I'd Tell You I Love You, but then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

Carter, A. (2006). I’d tell you I love you, but then I’d have to kill you. New York, NY: Hyperion.  

Plot Summary:  Fifteen-year-old Cammie Morgan is not your average teenager.  She attends the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women where learning Swahili, Covert Ops, and PhD-level chemistry are all part of the school’s basic curriculum. It’s a spy school and Cammie has been training her whole life to continue her parents' legacy.  Then one day, she falls for a normal boy in town who can never know the truth about her.  Unfortunately, being a normal teenage girl is not something the Gallagher Academy has ever trained her for.

Critical Analysis:  Stacy Hayman from VOYA writes that Carter’s novel, I’d Tell You I love you, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, is “written in an easy-to-read, conversational tone, this novel combines the real (learning how to talk to boys) and the unreal (learning how to be a secret agent for the government) in a strangely believable way” (2006, Children’s Comprehensive Database).  Not only is Carter’s book geared for young adult audiences who love a good spy story, but it’s also full of entertaining spy-related information which keeps the readers engaged throughout the story.  In a Children’s Literature review, Mary Loftus states that there are, “fun spy-related details in the story, which will have most readers chuckling” (2006, Children’s Comprehensive Database).  Carter does a great job in creating an extraordinary spy school for young girls. But, Cammie still has a lot to learn, especially about the one thing the school doesn’t teach – boys.  Claudia Moore from the School Library Journal writes, “By the end of Ally Carter's novel the truth is revealed and Cammie has learned more about herself than she has about spying” (2006, Books in Print).  Ally Carter captures the reader’s interest with the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women with its historical background, challenging spy courses, and likable characters.  Cammie Morgan grew up with parents who were spies, she goes to an all-girl spy school, and she is training to be a covert operative one day.  While on a mission from her CoveOps teacher, Mr. Soloman, Cammie and her two best friends, Liz and Bex, are separated and Cammie is forced to complete their objective on her own.  The only thing she doesn’t count on is being spotted by a local town boy named Josh.  Suddenly, Cammie’s world is turned upside down by a boy who can never really know who she is or where she goes to school.  But, Cammie can’t get Josh out of her head…or her heart.  

Carter does a great job in developing Cammie Morgan, the perfect teenage spy-in-training who has learned nothing else but spy-related courses, such as advanced martial arts, covert operations training, and learning to speak in fourteen different languages.  She may not be a genius like her friend, Liz, but she can hold her own at the Gallagher’s Academy where her mother is an ex-spy and headmistress of the school.  Cammie may not be the most confident of the Gallagher girls, but she takes pride in being unseen, which is how she earned her spy name, “The Chameleon.”  She knows her stuff and is confident in the beginning of the story that being a spy is where her life is headed.  But, as the story unfolds she comes to realize that there is more to life than just spy school – which turns out to be a normal local boy named Josh.  Cammie’s lack of knowledge when it comes to the opposite sex is revealed when she states, “The boy of my dreams may have been as close as the town of Roseville...but he and I would never speak the same language - which is totally ironic, since “boy” was the one language my school had never tried to teach me” (p.129).  Liz, Bex, and Macey are almost like Cammie’s sidekicks as they help her with spy school missions and gathering intel on Josh.  Although they are an important part of Cammie’s life, there is not too much known about Liz, Bex, and Macey other than a little parental background.  Macey’s character seems to be the most complex of all, yet most of what the reader learns about her are rumors Cammie has heard.  One example is when Cammie mentions that she heard Macey “hijacked a sheik’s yacht in the Mediterranean” (p.190).

The setting of the story takes place mostly at the Gallagher Academy and the town of Roseville.  It is also written in first person through Cammie’s point of view.  So, you don’t know what else is going on in the story unless it’s something Cammie sees or hears. But, the story also includes fun spy-related material that readers will find humorous, such as “the science of Garbology” (p.119), and the different flavors and uses of “Evapopaper” (p.8).  In addition, references to military jargon/lingo are used, such as “17:35 hours (that’s five thirty-five P.M.): The Operative moved into position. 18:00 hours: The Operative was wishing she’d brought something to eat because she couldn’t leave her post to go buy a candy bar, much less use the bathroom” (p.147).  Most readers will enjoy the spy-related humor and the intricate details of the Gallagher Academy, which is complete with sliding mirrors, hidden elevators, and basement classrooms.

Although more chic lit than a mystery novel, readers of I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You will enjoy Carter’s fresh twist on the idea of an all-girls spy school. Readers who like The Squad: Perfect Cover by Jennifer Barnes and Code Name Cassandra by Meg Cabot will also enjoy this novel.  This book is recommended for readers in grades 6 and up.

Hayman, Stacy. (2006, Oct.). Becoming a super spy is not easy. [Review of the book I’d tell you I love you, but then I’d have to kill you, written by Ally Carter]. VOYA. Children’s Comprehensive Database. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=0&isbn=9781423100034

Loftus, Mary. (2006). Everyone in the town of Roseville thinks the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. [Review of the book I’d tell you I love you, but then I’d have to kill you, written by Ally Carter]. Children’s Literature. Children’s Comprehensive Database. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=0&isbn=9781423100034

Moore, Claudia. (2006, Aug. 1). Cammie Morgan attends prestigious Gallagher Academy. [Review of the book I’d tell you I love you, but then I’d have to kill you, written by Ally Carter]. School Library Journal. Books in Print. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.twu.edu:3959/DetailedView.aspx?hreciid=|16076222|31004313&mc=USA#

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