This addicting, action-packed series follows Cameron “Cammie” Ann Morgan, a sophomore at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. The Gallagher Academy’s reputation is primly negative, and the neighboring inhabitants of Roseville, Virginia view it as a school for “rich, snotty heiresses.” However, the students are actually spies-in-training, the next generation of agents who hope to be employed by the CIA post high school graduation.
Book One: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You
While on a mission for her Covert Operations class, Cammie meets Josh Abrams, a normal, typical boy, who sees her, despite her rank of being a great ‘pavement artist’ and her distinctive aim to stay in the shadows. Cammie is known as the “Chameleon,” because she is average- not too tall, not too short, not too chubby, not too thin, not too anything- so she is able to blend in among a crowd of people, and specializes in tailing her subjects while under cover. With the help of her best friends, Liz Sutton and Bex Baxter, and her roommate, Macey McHenry, along with some brilliant heists and ingenious exaggerations of the truth, Cammie is able to develop a steady relationship with Josh, and sneaks out– using the school’s newfound secret passageways that only she knows about (being the headmistress’s daughter and all)– to see him on a regular basis throughout the school year. She revels in his normalcy and takes comfort in his regular teen dilemmas; I believe this is a big part of why she likes him: when she is with him, she is able to become someone she’s not, and abandon the careful, restless side of her that has been trained to constantly watch her back. However, things soon get complicated, as Cammie is forced to lie endlessly (and flawlessly) to keep her cover as a rich schoolgirl, and she soon learns that normal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Book Two: Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy
After the whole Josh-inspired mishap, Cammie returns to Gallagher Academy for her junior year of high school, only to find that the East Wing is strictly off-limits. During CoveOps the next day, the class is blindfolded and transported to the National Mall, where they are told to blend in and instructed to meet at the ruby slippers exhibit by a given time, practicing counter-surveillance. Only one girl in the class succeeds in doing this; Cammie fails when she is followed by Zach, whom she believed to be an innocently ignorant teenage boy, follows her from the elevator. Later, Cammie’s mom, Headmistress Morgan, announces that fifteen boys- Zach being one of them- from Blackthorne Institute for Troubled Young Men (Cammie concludes this is a cover, and they are also spies in disguise) will be staying at the Gallagher Academy for an unknown duration of time, in a sort of “one-way exchange program.” Cammie and her roommates view the boys as suspicious targets and decide to investigate, but the carefully-placed listening devices in their bedrooms, and the trackers in their shoes don’t prove useful. Zach always seems to constantly hang around Cammie, who doesn’t know whether to consider him infuriating or endearing, and ends up settling with annoying. When he asks her on a study date, she almost says no, but then uses it as an excuse to get information from him about his school, and his past. When the Gallagher Academy’s cover almost gets blown, and is in danger of being released, the girls- and the boys!- must work to make sure that their identities stay secret, no matter what the cost.
Book Three: Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover
When Macey invites Cammie to stay with her in Boston over summer break, Cammie accepts, and looks forward to watching Macey’s father accept his nomination for Vice President of the United States. But Cammie and Macey lead dangerous and twisted lives, and they soon find themselves victims of an attempted kidnapping. But luckily their in-depth training and fantastic espionage skills kick in, and they manage to escape along with Preston, the son of the soon-to-be President of the U.S. As their junior year begins, Cammie has a hard time focusing on her studies, and Gallagher Academy doesn’t feel like the safe sanctuary she once believed it to be. In addition, Zach is starting to make a habit of showing up at dangerous points in Cammie’s life. Coincidence? Or is he a piece of the puzzle? Cammie (Codename: Chameleon), Macey (Peacock), Bex (Duchess), and Liz (Bookworm) must dig up their field devices once again and harness their talents of espionage in order to discover who is out to get Macey and why, in this extraordinary novel of friendship, romance, and family.
Book Four: Only the Good Spy Young
This speed-rap-of-a-novel begins when Cammie has just been identified as the target of an international terrorist organization, the Circle of Cavan, who is set on kidnapping her for unknown objectives. As a result, she is the subject of strict, 24-hour surveillance and security, which she finds extremely infuriating, but everyone tells her that it’s only for her own good. Cammie stays with Bex over winter break, and is surprised to find that Zach has followed her in disguise in order to ensure himself of her safety, and he asks her, anxiously, if she’s seen Mr. Solomon, CoveOps teacher and comrade of Zach, to which she replies that she has not. After Zach leaves, the lights of the ice skating rink go out, and Cammie is grabbed by none other than Joe Solomon, who instructs her to simply “run.” She does without question; even though he is suspected to be working with the enemy, he is still one of her spy-idols, and he was her father’s best friend. They end up on the Tower Bridge, where Cammie demands explanations, but Joe won’t say a thing. He won’t answer any of her questions and forces her to promise to “follow the pigeons,” which confuses Cammie, as it doesn’t make any sense to her at the time. He then jumps off the bridge and escapes her security guards. Cammie used to think of Zach as her rock after he stood by her through the whole ordeal last semester, but she is forced to question even that. Cammie assimilates many different lessons throughout this novel; primarily about trust, and that even those you trust the most may turn against you in the presence of fear: man’s greatest weapon.
Book Five: Out of Sight, Out of Time
This exceptional book kicks off when Cammie wakes up in an alpine convent with no recollection of where she is or when she got there; the last thing she remembers is leaving the Gallagher Academy to protect her family and friends from the dreaded Circle of Cavan. Her mother soon comes to pick her up, and however frustrating it may be, Cammie must face the fact that her memory is now a blank abyss of nothingness. She is reunited with Liz, Bex, and Macey, who are all furious with her for leaving, but not for the reason you might think. They’re not mad that she left and put her life in danger in order to ensure the safety of their so well-protected school; they are angry because she didn’t take them with her. She is also reacquainted with Zach, who was enrolled as the only boy ever to attend the Gallagher Academy while she was away, and he now acts strangely around her. Everyone treats her as if she’s a different person then she was before she left (which she might as well be). She overhears a conversation between Zach and Bex, sounding as if they’re mourning her, and mistakes their strong bond (a result of Cammie’s leaving and mental instability; they are the ones that wanted to be with her the most, and the ones that her not being there was the hardest on) for love, which makes her angry and jealous and confused as she continues to desperately try to fill in the blanks. Summoning all her capabilities in the great art of espionage, she soon discovers two things about her family: what truly happened to her father, and why the Circle of Cavan craves her presence so desperately. On her quest to bust the bad guys and reclaim her sanity, Cammie and her friends must unleash their full potential as spy-girls and “hack, spy, steal and lie their way to the truth,” while revealing lessons of value, pain, desperation, desire, family, and love.
Book Six: United We Spy
COMING SEPTEMBER 2013!!!!!
This is a truly remarkable series. I started reading, expecting a girly attempted story of espionage, but instead I encountered a world in which I felt I could live in (well, for about a week, during which I finished the series) and fully developed characters encompassed within a fast-pace action story that I absolutely fell in love with. I have revisited this series a countless number of times (to my parents’ dismay), and I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading– a wide berth, I know.
The first book is definitely more girly than the others, but it’s a fast read and I got through it rather quickly; next thing I knew, I was on to number two. However, I still view I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You as unrelated to the other books, so if you can’t get into it, skip to Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, for this is when the saga truly kicks off. Do not judge the series by the first book; that is my advice. Even though Ally Carter definitely aimed for a teen-girl audience (it is called Gallagher Girls, after all), I was able to convince a couple of my guy-friends to read the first book, and we now talk and gossip about the series together as we anxiously await the final installment.
This series has been compared to Harry Potter for certain similarities (I know, I don’t get it either. Except for the fact that it’s a boarding school in disguise…) even though they’re nothing alike, but I believe that even being compared to Harry Potter is a privilege, and that fact contributes something positive to the series. I recommend this book series to any girls–and boys! – who are fans of any of the following books: the Matched trilogy (Ally Condie), the Delirium trilogy (Lauren Oliver), the Mortal Instruments series (Cassandra Clare), the Selection novels (Kiera Cass), the Percy Jackson and the Olympians Books (Rick Riordan), or the Heroes of Olympus Series (Rick Riordan).
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
-Danielle K., 8th grade