Sunday, March 18, 2012

Review: I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU, BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU by Ally Carter

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school—that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class.  The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it’s really a school for spies. 
Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl.  Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”—but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s on her most dangerous mission—falling in love.
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You. Whew! What a title. Very cute, but a pain to write. I wanted to make sure I stated the full title first thing, as it barely fits in the subject line. From now on, it shall be ITYILY.



I first picked up ITYILY because of Dot Hutchinson. She reviewed the entire series on her blog, and I figured, "Hey, if she likes it, I guess it can't be that bad." My little sister also loves the series, but that doesn't hold much weight with me. She's fifteen and our tastes in books are polar opposites (excluding very important exceptions such as Hunger Games and The Thief). My sister's obsession with Cammie Morgan came in handy, however, because it meant I could appease my curiosity without spending a dime.

Cammie is a spy-in-training at a super-secret spy school, Gallagher Academy for Girls. It's like every other super-exclusive boarding school, except for the secret passageways, the sign outside the dining hall that sets the language spoken for the day (anything from American English to Mandarin Chinese or Farsi), the electrified sword that routinely sets inquisitive seventh-graders on fire, and the fact that every student is a certified genius.

At a school like that, surprises are sort of expected, except Cammie usually knows at least some of the secrets ahead of time. After all, her mom's the headmistress. Only her mom didn't bother to mention the new Covert Ops professor, Joe Solomon, or the fact that he obviously has some sort of history with Cammie's mom, or the fact that he's smokin' hot.

A hot single male in a building full of teenage girls can cause a lot of buzz, even if that buzz travels around in seventeen different languages. The only thing that could make a bigger buzz is Macey McHenry, the spoiled daughter of Senator McHenry and the newest girl in school. To Cammie's chagrin, her mom decides to stick Macey in with Cammie and her roommates, brainiac (even by Gallagher standards) Liz and in-your-face Brit Bex.

Suffice to say Cammie has enough on her plate when Solomon sends her, Liz, and Bex out on a "mission" for class. As bona fide chameleon or "pavement artist," Covert Ops should be right up Cammie's alley. She can follow anyone anywhere without being noticed.

Except she is noticed. By a boy. A normal, non-spy boy named Josh who thinks she's just another normal, non-spy girl.

Quicker than a roundhouse kick to the face, Cammie finds herself in a real-life mission. Her objective: to decode said boy's "Boy Language" messages (both verbal and non-verbal), exercise her chameleon skills to take on the befuddling role of "normal girl," and, above all, not get caught by her mom.

What a fun book. I mean, really, it's very fun. This isn't a terribly deep book, nor terribly twisty, despite being about spies. There are some surprises, but nothing that will make you drop your jaw and go "Holy cow!" It has the light, fluffy taste of cotton candy with the munchability factor of popcorn. Despite telling myself that it was "just okay," I found myself eager to return to see what would happen next.

The front of my sister's book proudly proclaims that the ITYILY has been optioned by Disney (which means someday it may be coming to a screen near you), which makes sense to me. It totally felt like a Disney movie, in the best possible way. The professors are crazy in a non-threatening way (I heart you, Mr. Moskowitz), and the girls are charmingly boisterous in a way only fifteen-year-olds could pull off. I laughed out loud when Cammie started freaking out that Macey could decipher the mysterious language known as Boy, because it was all so over-the-top yet incredibly like how I remembered my awkward younger years. Boys are weird, y'all.

Sure, there are a couple minor things that bugged me. The book is supposedly Cammie's official report to her mother but included far more extraneous personal detail that a spy would ever put in a report... or a teenager would tell her mom. Seemed to me like there was a better way for the author to frame the narrative. Some of Cammie's more outrageous claims (mom allegedly killed a man with only a People magazine) grew a bit old. Also, there were some moments where I had to suspend disbelief (just wait 'til you get to the scene with the ropes and Josh's roof and...), but I maintain that these moments are what would make the book a great Disney movie.

All in all, a surprising yet pleasant experience. I've already torn my way through the second book and am eagerly awaiting the next two (see, I have this little thing called work that disallows me from reading 24/7).

Points Added For: Non-dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship, homeschoolers (even if it's just a cover), a female rival who isn't a total you-know, giddy teen girls who balance the line between amusing and twee, an unexpected resolution.

Points Subtracted For: A girl named Dee-Dee who dots her i's with hearts, full sentences in German and French that are never translated, Roseville's unsatisfyingly explained hatred for Gallagher Academy.

Good For Fans Of: Heist Society also by Ally Carter, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (so says Amazon), Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (so says my sister).

Points For Parents: One d-word and one implied b-word, some lying to authority figures.

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