About a month ago, one of my students presented me with a summer reading list that she expected me to complete before the school year. Although this list is only six books long, I have one month before school starts again and should probably get a move on.
The first book on her list was Ally Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You but Then I'd Have to Kill You. It is about a girl named Cammie who attends a spy school. When she meets, and falls for, a non-spy guy, she works hard to treat her relationship with him as a covert operation. That is, until the two halves of her life connect. Because my opinion of this book for myself and for my classroom are quite different, I will explain both.
I definitely enjoyed the plot and thought that it was very creative. I especially liked the way that Cammie's character developed as she learned and reacted to her experiences. This was a very realistic approach to making her a more universal character. Additionally, several of the teacher's names were terrific! I love the idea of having a Dr. Fibs at a spy school!
However, there were three major issues that made it impossible for me to enjoy reading this novel. First, there was no way to predict what was going to happen next. Most of the time, it felt like Carter was more interested in surprising her audience than she was in dropping clues to allow her readers to do their own spy work. For example, there is no mention of the McHenry family until Macey has already been introduced and accepted to the school. Rather than showing any dissonance between wanting to accept her for her name and not wanting her there due to her arrogance, she is accepted and then the reason is explained. Rather than seeming like a good choice for the school, it feels like Carter needed a reason to include a character and made up that reason in a hurry. Second, the writing style is choppy in several places. It bounced from flashback or internal monologue to current happenings without any real segues. This made it difficult to tell if Cammie was telling us about the past or present. This was especially distracting because I was forced to re-read sections in order to grasp the full meaning. Third, I feel like Josh was definitely an underdeveloped character. At the end of the book, he seems unfazed when he finds out that his girlfriend is a spy. Many of the young men that I know would consider that the bee's knees and would think that she was ultimately hotter because of her abilities. Josh, however, thinks that it is OK for her to be a spy, but is upset that he was lied to. While no one enjoys deceit, it is almost as though he is thinking "Hey! I understand that you're a spy, but how dare you lie to me!" How can he respect her career while still being unable to believe that she did her job?
For My Classroom
I will definitely be suggesting this to some of my students. Although I was not a huge fan, I can think of several middle school girls who will love it. The romance between Josh and Cammie was definitely directed to a middle school audience. It was also perfectly done.
This is definitely more aimed toward a middle school female audience and I believe that it will do well with this audience.