Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter. Hyperion Books. Publication Date: June 2009. Reviewed from ARC.
The Plot: Cammie and the rest of her Gallagher Girl friends are back for their Junior Year. This time around, it's all about friendship. Macey's father is running for Vice-President, and while Cammie is visiting Macey on the campaign trail someone tries to kidnap Macey.
Sure, Macey has Secret Service Agents. But Gallagher Girls know that they're...well... better and smarter than the Secret Service. So it's up to them to protect Macey and figure out who the kidnappers are.
The Good: Ally Carter makes my job hard. Because what I really want to say is "this is so freaking good that you need to stop reading me right now and go read the Gallagher Girl books." But really, what type of review is that?
To those who have not read the previous books, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You and Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy: go, now, and read them. These books don't have to be read in order, but they are so much better when they are read in order. If your middle school or high school library doesn't own them? Change that, now. All those parents moaning that Bella isn't a strong enough character or that Serena and Blairare too obsessed with designer labels? Hand them these books, now.
To those who have read the previous books: Carter does it again. What is "it"? Writing that has a playful tone mixed with humour and seriousness. Fast-paced plotting. Adventure and suspense that keeps the reader turning the page. It's a "good read;" and it's the type of writing that looks easy....but then you either try it yourself, or you read all the imitators who cannot carry it off, and realize just how talented Carter is.
Carter keeps the "spy girls!" story fresh; other series start off great and either lose steam, or end up being the same book over and over. Not Carter; not the Gallagher Girls. She and the books keep getting better and better, and the risks keep getting higher and higher.
One example of her fabulosity: the love interests. In the first book, Cammie falls for "normal guy" Josh. Lesser writers would have said that since Josh is Cammie's first love, he's her one true love, and that's it. In book two, Carter introduces a new love interest, Zach, who ends up being both Cammie's equal but also quite hot. Hotter than Josh. Convincingly writing two love interests for a teenage girl? Is not only realistic; but is also tricky. Because you have to convince the reader to fall for both of them.
Before you think it's all about boys....OK, it is about boys. But Cammie and her friends are smart, strong, intelligent young women; and they have a kidnapping plot to investigate. Romance is here; but it is the b-plot, not the plot that rules their lives and dictates their choices.
Final thoughts: if there isn't a fourth book in this series, I will go all Gallagher Girl and do whatever is necessary to make sure there is a fourth book. Is that a threat? Maybe....
That said, Carter is not a one-Gallagher Girl series wonder. Her books for grown ups (see below) are great fun. While I want another GG book, I also want to see what else Carter has up her writer's sleeve and what she'll write next.
My review of Love You, Kill You with a few additional thoughts
In which I stalk Ally Carter, Kinda
My reviews of Carter's romance books for grown-ups, Cheating at Solitaire and Learning to Play Gin
My interview with Ally Carter
Edited to add: a favorite book read in 2009.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy