Monday, October 12, 2009

Sports, Adventure & Mystery: I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Bibliographic Data
Carter, Ally. I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You. New York: Hyperion, 2006. ISBN 1423100034.

Plot Summary
Cammie Morgan attends the Gallagher School for Exceptional Young Women in a fictional town called Roseville. Gallagher is secretly a school for spies, but the Roseville residents think it's a snooty private girl's school. Then Cammie meets Josh, a boy from Roseville, and all the rules change. Cammie needs to decide fast which world she wants to belong in, her world of spies, secrets, and espionage, or Josh's 'normal' world.

Critical Analysis
Cammie Morgan is smart, friendly and attends an exclusive girl’s school, The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. She also knows a huge secret—Gallagher Academy is actually a school for spies. Spying is the Morgan family business. Cammie’s father was killed on a spy mission. Her mother was also an active spy who retired when her husband died and is now the headmistress of Gallagher Academy. Spying is Cammie’s world. She like what she does. She’s good at what she does. She knows no other life.

Then one day, Cammie is on a class reconnaissance mission, and gets ‘made’ by a civilian. The civilian looks “like a cross between a young George Clooney and Orlando Bloom” (80), and his name is Josh. Josh has lived in Roseville his entire life, and he’s ‘normal.’

          ”Plain curtains? Striped curtains? What kind of society
          had I stumbled into? I should be getting COW extra
          credit for this!
We walked farther, down a winding
          street with manicured lawns and perfect flower beds
          that couldn’t possibly have been mere miles from the
          Gallagher walls. I was getting an insider’s tour behind
          the picket fence. I was going where no Gallagher Girl
          (well, at least this Gallagher Girl) had ever gone
          before—into a normal American family” (187).

Cammie is suddenly exposed to a world she hardly had suspected existed. Yes, she knew she was different than other teenagers, but she had never realized just how different. She tries to exist in both worlds, but finally realizes that she needs to choose between one or the other.

The climax comes when the Gallagher girls go to town one Saturday, and Cammie is forced to choose between pretending she’s not a Gallagher girl, or telling Josh she’s been lying to him about who she is. She stands back while some of the town boys try to bully one of her classmates. Back at the school later, Cammie is ostracized by her friends, who feel that she’s betrayed them by choosing Josh over them. And Cammie has to admit to herself that they’re right. She finally makes her decision, even though somebody’s going to get hurt. She decides that spies can’t fall in love with civilians.

          ”I couldn’t see anything but Josh. I couldn’t hear
          anything but the fear in his voice when he said,
          “Cammie, tell me the truth.”

          The truth. I could hardly remember what it was. I’d been
          eluding it for so long that it look me a moment to
          remember what it was and what had brought me to that rooftop.

          I do go to the Gallagher Academy....”

          “I don’t believe you.” He didn’t sound hurt then—the words
          were a dare.

           “What do I have to say?“ I snapped. “Do I have to tell you
          that my father’s dead, and my mom can’t cook, and that
          these girls are the closest thing I have to sisters?...
          Do I have to say that you and I can’t ever see each other
          again? Because it’s true. It’s all true.” He reached out
          to touch me, but I jerked away, saying, “Don’t come looking
          for me, Josh. I can’t ever see you again.” And then I
          looked into his eyes for the first time. “And you’ll be
          better for it” (264).

But Cammie has forgotten one important thing: "the persistence of a regular boy who has the misfortune of loving an exceptional girl" (271). Josh comes to resuce her from what he thought was a kidnapping, but was actually just the final for Cammie's Covert Ops class.

After the dust settles (literally, since Josh drove a forklift through a wall to 'rescue' Cammie), Cammie and her mother have a long overdue talk. Not as a student/headmistress, but as a mother and daughter.

          "Cammie," she said, moving to sit beside me. "I'm not glad
          you lied to me. I'm not glad you broke the rules, but there
          is one part of this that has made me very proud..... Do you
          know that your dad and I weren't sure we wanted you to go to
          school here?...When we came here, I knew I'd be taking away
          everything that isn't inside these walls. I didn't want this
          to be the lnly life you know. Your dad and I used to talk
          about whether this was the best place for you.... But the
          thing I worried most about was that you'd spend your childhood
          learning to be hard and strong and never learn that it's okay
          to be soft and sweet. Doing what we do, it doesn't mean turning
          off the part of yourself that loves, Cam. I loved your father...
          I love your father. And you. If I thought you would
          have to give that never know that...I would take you as
          far away from this place as we could go" (278-279).

So Cammie has learned something new about herself, her mother, and her world - there MUST BE room for love in it. However, at the end of the story, Josh has been told everything by Mrs. Morgan and one of Cammie's teachers. From Cammie's CovOps report of the night's occurences, we know that there is a 'memory modification" tea that leaves its drinker with absolutely no memory of the few hours before he or she drank the tea. On his way out the door of Mrs. Morgan's office, Josh's final words to Cammie are, "Oh, tell your mom thanks for the tea" (283). It'll be interesting to read the sequel to this book and find out if that was a teaser or true foreshadowing.

Awards and Honors
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award, 2009; Winner Grades 6-9 Maryland.
Kansas Notable Book, 2007; Winner United States.
Amelia Bloomer Project, 2007; Feminist Task Force SSRT ALA; United States.

Review Excerpts
Mary Loftus (Children's Literature, n.d.)
Clearly chick lit for teens, this story is amusing with engaging characters and a lighthearted plot.

Horn Book (The Horn Book Guide, Fall 2006)
Cammie attends Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a school allegedly for geniuses but actually for spies. The coursework is rigorous, the teachers are experts in their fields, and her mother is the headmaster. Disappointingly, Cammie's undercover skills are only used to investigate a boy she likes, but the book--more romance than spy thriller--is still entertaining.

Claire Rosser (KLIATT Review, May 2006 (Vol. 40, No. 3))
This is escapist fiction for those who like unusual school stories.

Book Hook
This book is just the first in a series of adventures featuring Cammie and the Gallagher Academy. Ally Carter has also written Cross my Heart and Hope to S (2007) and Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover (2009). Both books are published by Hyperion.

Online Connections
The CIA actually offers a program for high school seniors called the Undergraduate Scholarship Program. For more information, click here.

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