Ok, so I know I’m a little outside the age range this book is aimed at, but mentally I am still around 7 so this was no problem. I enjoyed this book. It’s not one that blows your mind or anything, but it’s entertaining and funny and overall I just found it enjoyable (and quick) to read. It felt like a nice break from the rest of my life, which is full of revision and things that make my brain hurt, so I found it nice to have a book where you don’t really have to think too much. Maybe the reason this seemed so refreshing is because I’ve been reading Game of Thrones at the same time, because GOD my tiny raisin brain is bored of Lord Eddard ‘breaking his fast’ in chainmail.
The main character ‘Cammie’ is a 16 year old spy who goes to Gallagher Girls Academy. This is already exciting to me because a) spies!, and b) all girls schools bring me back to being 10 and obsessed with Wild Child and St Trinians, so this kind of makes me feel like a happy, naïve child again. Cammie has two best friends Bex and Liz, who are both likeable characters, and her mum is the head mistress. There’s also Mr Solomon, who was mysterious and potentially in a relationship with Cammie’s mum (?) and Mr Fibs, who may have been hilarious but never actually featured other than little comments about his inventions. I guess if I had a criticism it could be that there seemed to be a lack of teachers, and for a spy Cammie didn’t really know a lot about them. The school, however, feels well developed with hidden doorways and revolving bookcases. Carter has a way of building it all up in your mind without actually giving you lots of information to fry your brain (George R.R Martin I’m talking about you). I felt like I could picture the school but also use my own imagination.
The main plot line is Cammie’s relationship with Josh, a boy from the village who doesn’t know that Cammie is a spy. As far as anyone else knows, Gallagher Girls are snobby rich kids who need to go to their elite boarding school because other schools don’t serve quails eggs for lunch. Predictably, Josh finds out Cammie is a spy and has been lying all along, then gets angry that she deceived him. I found Josh sweet and wanted to hear more about his mums pies (not a euphemism). I like how Carter gave him some angst by making his dad pressure him into becoming a pharmacist, because his character became more three dimensional and at that age job pressure is a relevant issue. If I was younger I might have been swooning about their relationship but I did feel a little detached, especially when they found the note from ‘Deedee’ (tragic name) and got all heartbroken.
Alongside the love story there’s a new girl called Macey who moves into Cammie’s dorm. Macy is a typical ‘mean girl’ character at first and I was worried the other girls hatred for her would take over the plot, however she remained to the side and actually developed into a loyal friend who protects the other girls, so I liked her character. Bex’s dad is potentially dead as he hasn’t returned for a mission and that added lots of tension and made their friendship more intricate, as Cammie kept it a secret from Bex.
The spy missions lost me a bit, even though they sound like the most exciting part. There was a lot of fast paced action with the teachers tracking the girls or something, but I was confused by it. The missions felt unexplained and random, and I was never sure what exactly the girls were supposed to be achieving and then it always turned out they had tragically failed. Mr Solomon’s melodramatic ‘you can all just leave, I never want to see your faces again’ speeches at the end made me feel like I was missing out on something too. Maybe some of the pages were stuck together.
Despite a couple of small issues I found this an enjoyable and easy read. It falls into the that genre I was in love with when I was younger where its all about ‘girls!!Wooh!!Friendship and cute boys!!!’ (think Aquamarine) and I’d be lying if I said this still didn’t make me happy. The plot is easy to follow, the school gives you slight Harry Potter feels, making you a bit jealous that you weren’t invited, and Cammie and her friends are all girls you would want to be friends with yourself. There was some humour, some heartbreak and a lot of warm fuzzy friendship. I’d actually been intending to read this for a few years now, ever since I saw one of my friends reading it and was enticed by the cover. Whilst I probably would have found it more enjoyable aged 14 I’m still glad I read it.