Thursday, July 1, 2010

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

The main character of I'd Tell You I'd Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (ITYILYBTIHTKY for short) is named Cameron. She goes by Cammie. In an astounding coincidence--I mean, how could her mom have known when she named her new baby?--Cammie is especially good at blending in, as in chameleon or camouflage, both words that shorten to Cammie.

Blending in is a good trick when you're a spy-in-training. Cammie goes to the Gallagher Academy, an elite private school for girl geniuses who want to be spies. Cammie's mom is headmistress. Then one day on a training exercise, Cammie's blending-in abilities fail her and she meets a boy named Josh--a regular boy who lives in town. He's cute and seems to like her, so Cammie's friends use their spy training to learn more about him, and ultimately get the two of them together.

The book is light and shallow, fast-paced, and Cammie herself is a nice enough fifteen-year-old. But I thought this was going to be about spies. I read half the book waiting for the bad guys to move in or for something to happen to Josh. Instead, it's a girl-meets-boy, girl-gets-boy, girl has to choose between her eccentric life with her friends or a normal life with the boy. Not a lot happens that isn't completely predictable.

It's a sweet little story, but the whole spy thing is just a hook. The book would have been precisely the same if Cammie went to a private girl's school for future politicians or scientists or lawyers--with the exception of having a different ending, I hope, since I found this one confusing and unsatisfying.

The book is deftly written and often funny, and Cammie's struggles with her feelings for Josh, her relationship with her mother, and her grief for her dead father all work well. The plot--such as it is--works less well, mostly because it's one cliche after another: wondering if the cute guy actually likes her, asking the snooty rich girl for help with learning about boys, the disastrous first date that turns out wonderful after all, discovering that another girl loves the cute boy, meeting the cute boy's horrible friends and pedestrian parents, and so on and so on.

That's never been my favorite kind of book, even back when I was fifteen myself. And I'm always going to feel cheated that this book about spies did not have spying in it. Stalking a cute boy and going through his garbage does not count as spying.

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