I read these quite quickly, so like the other bit of teen fiction I wrote about, I’m going to discuss the whole series instead of going through book by book.
How is it best to describe this series? Well, imagine a school full of teenage female James Bond’s, plus the best security system imaginable and you get the idea of what it would be like to go to the Gallagher Academy of Exceptional Young Women. The school is portrayed as one of the most selective schools for geniuses and is full of snobby rich kids. However, those who have a high enough clearance level know the academy for what it actually is; a school which specialises in the art of espionage. You know a school is going to be interesting when its moto is:
“We are the sisters of Gillian…..To learn her skills. Honour her sword. And keep her secrets…… To the cause of justice and light.”
Ally Carter writes the series in first person through the eyes of Cammie Morgan, daughter of the headmistress and a dead spy; and covers the last 4 years of her time at the academy (or it could be 3 but the American school system has never made sense to me, so it’s to work out what year means what age, etc.).
The first two books (I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You; Cross My Heart & Hope To Spy) are more standalone then the rest of the series, as there is not a particular ongoing mission like throughout the others. The books are more there to set the scene for what it’s like to go to that school and Cammie’s increasing want for normality when she falls for a boy called Josh. The antics that her and her three best friends get up to did make me laugh, as it took Facebook stalking of guys to a whole new level. Almost verging on creepy.
The other four books however, have an ongoing mission/situation which guides the rest of the narrative. Suddenly, Cammie is thrusted into the real and dangerous world of spy-hood before she even gets to graduate. It is clever of Carter to write the first two books based around “Operations” that, in the grand scheme of things, are very childish; and then shift in book three to operations that involve real life or death situations. It helps highlight the growth in character development as the girl’s head towards 18. Cammie and her friends go from only caring about exams and boys, to realising that some things are worth risking their lives for, especially if it was Cammie’s dad’s last mission.
Constantly, the reader is taught to reluctantly give over their trust to the various characters who have a tendency to be more then they initially appear; and, most importantly of course, is to learn that girls are tougher then their stereotype alludes to.
My favourite book is the fifth (Out of Sigh, Out of Time) for Cammie wakes up in the Alps not knowing how she got there or what has happened in the past three months! It has a Jason Borne feel to the book, as she spends her whole time retracing her steps working out what the F@#! happened and who knows more then they are letting on. Just like Borne, it was probably one of the worst times for her to have gotten amnesia. Especially, since she knows the answers to the puzzle but now just needs to remember them!
This series is a bullet dodging, ass kicking coming of age story with a slice of romance on the side. A great series for teens to begin their love for thriller books.
Recommendations. The Imperial series (starting with the Imperial Spy) by Mark Robson is set in a fantasy world and follows the life of the Emperor’s spy. Another suggestion (for the slightly older reader) is Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding. This one is quite a laugh and shows what havoc a citizen can course when getting caught up in covert affairs.