Monday, November 23, 2009

I'd Tell You I Love You but Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

First published in 2006.

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school - typical, 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 seven different ways with her bare hands, 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 "pavem
ent artist" - but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her? (book back blurb)

Initially the only reason why I picked up this book was because it's one of my dream agents's clients so I figured I might as well try out what she likes and see if we see eye to eye (as that's rather important when choosing an agent you want to represent your writing, because otherwise it might not work out so well, huh?). Then I decided to wedge this into my Fear Itself Challenge because of that fact. Had it not been Kristen Nelson's author's book, I wouldn't have otherwise picked it up. In all honesty, I thought a school for teenage spies was a little out there.

I read a chapter before I got nice and horrendously sick so it lay stagnant for a week. My initial impression off of that first chapter? For how extraordinary Cammie is, she's a really normal chick. Normal speech, normal friendships (again, despite the circumstances). The language is normal, not trying too hard. While I'm not crazy about the boarding school thing, at least it doesn't center around the rich kids versus the single poor chick there on a scholarship or something. There aren't really any cliques. No one's striving to be part of one team or another. They kind of just exist. There are students Cammie and her friends don't get along with, as it should be, but nothing is over the top or crazy cut-throat. It's real, to me at least. Overall, a good start.

Then I kept reading and I just fell in love with it. Bravo, Kristen Nelson and bravo Ally Carter! I wish there were more female main characters in YA lit that were more like Cammie and less like the insufferable Bella. Cammie is independent and goal-oriented. She knows what she wants out of life (and let me just say, that can be anything, even being a mom, nothing wrong with that, giving up everything for your boyfriend, on the other hand, very wrong) and she strives her hardest to get it.

What you have to understand about the situation is that while these girls are teenagers, they're not your standard, normal teenagers. When you're working with a genius-level IQ, the teenage brain doesn't function in the same way. Yes, they will still have standard teenage impulses (like with boys, for instance), but the way in which they deal with situations is going to be far different than what your normal teenager would. These are girls that know everything EXCEPT being normal. Macey is their link to the outside world, so to speak. When she comes into the picture, she brings a world these girls know pretty much nothing about into their otherwise very programmed, very structured lives. The opted for this. They wanted it. But that's not to say wrenches won't get thrown in spokes.

I love how Cammie, Bex and Liz handled the whole boy situation with Josh. I think every girl can relate to trying to decipher "boy talk" and "boy action" but they take it to such an extreme because, well, they can crack CIA code. Why the hell can't they figure out what that note meant??? And therein lies the dilemma of a genius. You have someone that can pretty much think their way out of any and every situation, except for those involving common sense and normalcy. Because they're not normal. Not really. Enter Macey again. She's that breath of normal that helps all three girls adjust to something that they're not used to. Had Macey not been in the picture, I don't think Cammie would have been able to handle the situation with Josh as good as she did. None of them had any clue what was going in before Macey and yeah, while the chick's a bitch, she knew what she was talking about. Gotta hate it when that happens.

And I loved the humor. It wasn't an overkill but there was just enough off-the-cuff humor that I ended up laughing out loud. When Bex and Liz were dangling off of Josh's roof while Cammie tried to distract him. Oh dear god did I laugh! I could so see that happening and not in an obnoxious Disney sitcom sort of way either. Or when Cammie stuffed a piece of paper with Josh's handwriting on it into her mouth only to realize after the fact that is was just normal paper, not the dissolving kind she's used to. Ha! Yeah, I can totally see that happening too. I'm telling you, I'd love to see this book in movie form. It has an excellent balance of humor that isn't absurd but is just enough to carry you through the story and lighten the mood.

Let's not forget the writing. Ah-maz-ing. Cammie is such an awesome and relatable character. Yeah, she's a genius, but she's a girl that also lost her father, has a boyfriend she doesn't quiet know what to do with and friends that sometimes teeter on the line of oblivion. It's so real despite the circumstances. The relationships are poignant and touching and at the same time, yeah, it really could happen to you. Ok, so maybe you won't be kidnapped by your teachers in order to complete a final. But you will have teachers that you connect to more than others, that know more than you thought they knew about you, and want only the best for you. It's just such a great book with such strong, admirable characters that you won't be able to help but love them.

I have the next book, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy sitting in m TBR pile and while I probably won't get to it for a while, I can't wait to see what happens next in the series. Sure, so much can happen when you go to school for spies but it's the normal stuff that's really exciting. Not to mention the awesome problem-solving techniques the girls utilize to figure it all out. God, I love it!

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