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The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction Review

I’d tell you I love you but I’d have to kill you
– Ally Carter
Cathy Smedley


Roseville is a small country town, steeped in tradition and small country values. On the outskirts of this small, tidy village stands The Gallagher Academy, a thorn in the otherwise happy village’s side. Seen as a boarding school for the rich and wealthy daughters of bored business men the villagers hold a special kind of resentment for the girls that go there, ‘The Gallagher glare’.

This suits the school just fine as it means the true secret stays safe, The Gallagher academy is no ordinary school, neither is it a stopover point between mansions for spoilt heiresses;  The Gallagher academy is a school for exceptional young women, it is a school for spies.

Cammie ‘The Chameleon’ Morgan is one of these girls. She and her best friends, Bex and Liz, are sophomores at the school with their term beginning in the same old normal, if a spy school can be normal, way that every term begins: Teacher handing out rules, introduction of new, hotter, teachers and conversational French at the breakfast table. The term begins normally till one day not so soon into term where the two worlds of Gallagher the rich kids’ school and the Gallagher spy school come crashing together; Macey McHenry, the daughter of the local senator, enrols at the school.

Macey is different to the rest of the girls, she is make up obsessed, fashion crazy and everything a spy really shouldn’t be. That is until the first CovOps assignment when Cammie’s world comes crashing around her ears. The invisible girl, the chameleon, is spotted by Josh, a local boy in the town. Instantly Cammie is thrown into a world of deception on both sides of the fence: should she be a super intelligent spy with years of training and a family back ground to rival even the hardest SAS solider or should she become the 15 year old homeschooled girl who owns a cat, with a passion for bottles, named Suzie?

After their first meeting, Bex, Liz and Macey go into ‘Operation Honey pot’ in an attempt to uncover Josh’s intentions towards Cammie, is it harmless romance or a deception against the school?

Can Cammie really fall in love and still remain a spy at the same time? Will she reveal her secret? Is this really worth it?

Love - Kill is an exciting ride through the turmoil of a teenage girl’s mind. The humour in the story between the three best friends, Macey, Bex and Liz, makes the book easy to relate to, considering the setting. Their constant prying into Cammie’s affairs and need to tinker with her life is a familiar situation to any girl who has just started out with her new, or even first, boyfriend and I think many 15 year old girls will be reading the story and end up smiling and nodding their heads in agreement through Cammie’s trials to impress Josh.

This story plays on the familiar settings of school and friends which I believe only works in its favour, by setting it in a familiar setting the reader can already imagine what the school must look like, even though some explanation of the spy-like rotating walls and retina scanning tapestries are required as that is certainly not your everyday occurrence.

I found that, although verging on generic, the characters were very believable and I found myself empathising with the characters at many points throughout the book.

However I do feel the inclusion of other languages in the book to be a little confusing, especially for someone who has not studied it in a while, so I feel perhaps and index at the back of the book may have been helpful to understand what they were saying. I do not think it needs to be removed, it’s an interesting creative choice to add to the story, but I think it just needs to be translated for the reader in some way.

Also I found the ending of the book to be a touch unpredictable. After Cammie has broken up with Josh, before she is bundled into a black spy van, I feel in part that the story is not really sure where it wants to go. At this juncture the story has the possibility to go one of two ways: Carter could continue with Cammie going back to her life as a spy, thus shortening the book by a chapter but, in my opinion, tying up the story neatly  or Cammie could go back to Josh or Josh goes to find Cammie?  In the end, Carter takes us straight into another Spy mission, which Josh then interrupts blowing Cammie’s cover and ruining the mission, even when they get the disc they were supposed to find.  I feel that the ending in which Josh finds out Cammie’s secret identity, the identity of the school and the reason behind the weirdness  of her behaviour within her relationship should’ve been given greater gravitas as I feel when reading that the end was very rushed.

The story seemed a little unbalanced in tempo in some places, the beginning seemed slow and meandering and the end seemed rushed.

However criticisms aside it did not decrease my overall enjoyment of the book and I highly commend the author on her alternative twist on the generic school girl story. I highly recommend it to any aspiring 15 year old looking for love, and any big girl just wanting a bit of school girl romance.
© Cathy Smedley May 2010

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