Cammie Morgan and her classmates arrive at school in limos. They have a five-star chef prepare their meals, their school is on gorgeous grounds, and the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women caters to a very select clientele.
They’re not Society darlings.
They’re spies- or at least they will be someday. For now, it’s learning, training, and living under a deep cover as spoiled prep school princesses for the benefit of the nearby town. These girls can speak fourteen different languages, defuse a bomb with a bobby pin and a gum wrapper, and know seven different ways to incapicate a grown men with a pinky finger, but there is one very important thing they don’t know: boys.
As Covert Ops takes them deep into the enemy territory of town, Cammie and her friends will undertake the mission of their life: boy meets girl.
I have a confession to make: this is one of the best books I almost missed. The first two books were out when I started working at a bookstore and I saw them. Saw them and thought they looked really hokey. I’m not even really sure why. It was probably a combination of my not reading much contemporary, the ransom note letters, the prep school uniform, and the light-and-fluffy vibe I got from reading the back. I didn’t take the book home.
Yet, anyway. Then, about two weeks before the third book came out, I started compiling my very first agent query list. I researched a slew of agents and books/author they represented, and it was while on Kristin Nelson’s site that I saw these books again. At that point I figured why not, the first two books are in paperback, they’re cheap, I get a discount, I’ll give them a try to get a taste of what that agent likes.
Will it surprise anyone that I devoured both books that night and then danced impatiently for the next two weeks until the third one came in?
I LOVED THEM.
I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You is the first book of the Gallagher Girls series. We’re introduced to the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a campus with as many secrets as its students. Within the high gates and manicured lawns is a beyond-state-of-the-art security and surveillance system. There’s a board outside the cafeteria that tells them which language they’re allowed to speak at meals, and their classes have names like Culture and Assimilation, Countries of the World, and Covert Operations. Gallagher Girls are all over the world, in a number of high places.
Cammie Morgan is a legacy- her mother, father, and aunt are all spies, even if her mother has stepped into a less active role to be Headmistress, and…well…her father’s been missing for a while. It’s not something they talk about. It’s understood that spies don’t always come back, but the uncertainty makes it hard to bear. In spy lingo, Cammie is a pavement artist, a chameleon who disappears in plain sight, who blends in perfectly to her surroundings, which makes her ideal for conducting surveillance. She’s proud of her school’s history and can’t wait for the day she can take a more active role in the Gallagher Girl legacy.
Coming into sophomore year, we also have best friends Liz Sutton (total Brainiac and all around genius) and Bex Baxter (Gallagher’s first British student and quite capable of kicking serious butt). It’s their sophomore year, the year they finally get to go to Sub-Level One for their first CoveOps class, and when the year starts the school is abuzz with the simple mysteries of what Mister Smith’s new face will be and the identity of the new teacher.
First shock of the year? New teacher is HOT. As in these teenage girls have no idea how to deal with the level of hotness HOT. And he’s got a history with Cammie’s mom.
Second shock of the year? New student Macey McHenry, daughter of a high-profile Senator and socialite, kicked out of more private schools than most of the girls could name, and Rebel with a major attitude. The girls aren’t too sure what to make of their new roommate at first, and Macey couldn’t care less.
Then comes Shock Number Three: on a CoveOps assignment in town, someone sees Cammie even though she’s in full chameleon mode. A BOY sees her- and wants to see her some more. Suddenly, Macey is a valuable resource because she knows how to talk Boy. Enter? Operatives Morgan, Sutton, Baxter, and McHenry, and a mission they have to keep secret from an entire school of people trained to ferret out secrets.
This book cracks me up. This is one I reread several times a year because I just love it that much.
If the spy school premise occasionally goes a little far- “once sweet-talked a Russian dignitary into dressing in drag and carrying a beach ball full of liquid nitrogen under his shirt like a pregnant lady”- that’s okay. Ally Carter is fully on board with the camp. There are moments that are ridiculous and absurd and utterly delightful, absolute fluff in the grand scheme of things.
Then there are the pieces that could take place in any school or setting, the universal story that weaves through Cammie’s. As she gets older, Cammie has to negotiate a changing relationship with her mother- as both parent and Headmistress- and opens her eyes to a world that can be a lot scarier than she realized. Spywork isn’t just fun and cool- it’s also dangerous. There’s friction with the new roommate. And, of course, there’s the boy.
Josh is sweet and endearing and completely normal- normal means something rather different for Gallagher Girls. Just communicating with him is harder than translating War and Peace from Russian into Farsi. There’s coming up with a cover, a story to convince him she’s just a normal girl. And there’s trying to figure out where a boy and a relationship fit into everything else. How do you juggle school and family and friends and a boy- oh, and sneak off a campus better equipped than most Federal buildings?
The answer is pure gold.
And if you love this one, check out the rest of the books in the series: Cross My Heart And Hope to Spy, Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover, Only the Good Spy Young, and Out of Sight, Out of Time out in stores 13 March 2013.
Want to win a copy of this book? It’s one of the prizes in my Double Celebration Giveaway, which you can enter here.
Until next time~