I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You

cover image for I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You

Carter, Ally. (2006) I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children

Plot Summary:

Most everyone in town thinks that the girls that attend the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women are nothing but a bunch of spoiled snobs.  That’s the way they like it though, because when the truth is that your school is training you to become a spy, it’s always good to know your cover story is holding up.  But when an ordinary boy starts to notice Cameron Morgan (nickname, the Chameleon) she’s suddenly not so sure that she wants to keep hiding in plain sight.

Critical Evaluation:

There’s no denying that Ally Carter’s excessively popular Gallagher Girls series is stuffed to bursting with silliness and absurdly improbable scenarios – like schedules printed on evapopaper and field trips that involve “borrowing” delivery trucks.  It also has a lot more depth than it often gets credit for.  Snuck between the slapstick comedy and preciousness are some interesting questions about identity, sacrifice, and who heroism is really for.  When Cammie’s new teacher questions if her father should have gone on the mission that ended up being his last, he isn’t just talking about skills, but rather asking if it was worth it.

The text does not provide neat answers to these questions, but neither does it dwell on them; rather than challenging anything head on or at length, it tends to come at things sideways and then quickly move onto more diverting topics.  Complexity is often dismissed in favor of humor and happy endings.  I think it is this, as much as the trappings of the book, that causes some to dismiss the series.

That’s alright though, because, like the Gallagher Academy itself, that’s how it’s supposed to work.  While others may roll their eyes at the silliness of it all and dismiss their fannishness as rooted in finding shiny! happy! preppiness appealing, the fans themselves know what their plaid skirts really represent.

This isn’t a series specifically for older teens, although many may like it and it’s a respectable inclusion in any young adult collection.  The audience it will most appeal to are younger teen girls, who are just beginning to be pressured to hide their passions and intelligence; the girls who are in the process of losing the fearlessness of girlhood for the insecurities and self-consciousness of adolescence.  [Unfortunately, I also need to add the qualifiers of “white, straight, middle class” younger teen girls, for while it could be worse in terms of inclusiveness, it could also do much better.]

For the girls that come to signings decked out in Gallagher Girls plaid, the series clearly offers them a way to hide in plain sight, just like Cammie does.  Readers are not necessarily challenged by the series, but it does offer much more than comfort or amusement– it offers a path for subversion that may perhaps be too safe to be effective in changing things now, but yet still gives girls the strength to stay true to themselves until they feel more confident in speaking their minds publicly.  The high expectations that Cammie and her classmates have for themselves, and the knowledge that failure means more than just some red marks on a page, also give voice to the pressures of perfection that many girls feel without requiring that they directly question the institutions they take part in. In short, it gives them a way to make a show of embracing compulsory femininity while not feeling ashamed of their complicated and less than perfect inner selves.   It is this, I think, that is the secret to the series success – and the reason why it is only occasionally brilliant and yet also cleverer than it often gets credit for.

Reader’s Annotation:

Cameron “Chameleon” Morgan gets top marks in her covert ops classes, so why is it that an ordinary boy with no spy training at all notices her?  And what will happen if Cammie decides that she no longer wants to stay hidden?

Author Information:

http://allycarter.com/blog/

@officiallyally

Genre:

Girl’s Series

Booktalking Ideas:

Most everyone in town thinks that the girls that attend the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women are nothing but a bunch of spoiled snobs.  That’s the way they like it though, because when the truth is that your school is training you to become a spy, it’s always good to know your cover story is holding up.

Reading Level/Target Age:

6th grade / 10-16

Potential Controversy:

I honestly cannot think of any.  Not so much because there is nothing for anyone to object to – because there is always something someone will find objectionable – but because the series does such a good job of hiding from the people who would object to it.

Reasons for choosing this title:

I was curious by the age levels suggested in Teen Genreflecting 3 because the girls I saw lining up at a signing two years ago were all very young.  I also wanted to see for myself what makes the series so appealing.

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