Review of Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover
The Gallagher Girls series is one that caught my attention right away when the first book came out in 2007. The series revolves around Cameron Morgan, a fifteen year old girl who attends an elite boarding school that exists to train female spies. I’m all about girl power and uniforms and spying, so I was drawn in right away. I devoured the next Gallagher Girls book that came along, but then it took awhile for this one, Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover, to come along.
In that time, something happened between the Gallagher Girls and me. Perhaps It was that Ally Carter wrote a few other books, some for adults, others just for a different teen spy series, in between and it made her lose touch with the Girls. Perhaps her teen voice isn’t as good as it was before. Or maybe I’ve just grown out of these books. Whatever it was, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I’ve enjoyed the others in the series.
In the book, Cameron (a.k.a. “Cammie,” or “Chameleon,” due to her incredible skill in disappearing into crowds and other identities) visits her roommate Macey in Boston. Macey is a politician’s daughter, and as her father is close to getting the vice-presidency, his teenage daughter is being closely watched. But then Cammie and Macey find themselves alone and being attacked by people bent on kidnapping Macey, and though the girls manage to fight their way out of that situation, security tightens around Macey, as well as the entire school. Cammie is determined to find out the identity of the people who tried to kidnap her friend, but that’s not easy when you have to get past obstacles such as high security, your mother (who’s also the headmistress), and pop quizzes that involve speaking three different languages while fending off bad guys.
While I find Cammie’s life very exciting, I felt that the author had difficulty writing about it in this book. Carter is a fan of cliff-hangers at the end of sections (not just chapters), and believe it or not, when used too often, cliff-hangers can get boring. Eventually I got tired of reading sentences like, “And I read the words ‘Be careful,’” “…and I knew that nothing about Sublevel One had prepared me for Sublevel Two,” and “And she’d heard everything we said.” (Notice the use of “and” to begin all of those statements. It’s a trademark of Carter’s, but one that doesn’t always fly.)
From what I remember of reading the other two GG books, Carter had a way of slipping shocking and important information into scenes in a way that made my stomach drop, but this time around, I only experienced that once, and I was disappointed that that was the case.
In the book, there was one thing that Carter seemed to be continuously trying to prove: that Cammie and her friends/fellow spies in training were just like every other girl. This is a running theme in the GG books, and it’s worked in the past; Cammie’s father was killed when she was young (albeit on a spying mission) and she deals with her grief over that, as well as her confusion over boys and general teenage insecurity. But all of this was handled clumsily in this installment. Rather than point out once or twice that perhaps the girls of Gallagher Academy may be a tad out of touch with the real world, she constantly has Cammie tell the reader that her “everyday” (non-uniform) outfits are shamefully out of date and state and restate that “we may look like normal girls, but we’re not.” And where in the last two books, Carter managed to sprinkle an appropriate amount of “like”s and “totally”s into her teens’ vocabulary, I felt that in this book, she was trying so hard to prove that her teens were teens that they sounded unrealistic.
But I have to admit that even though I thought the end came too slowly, I cried like a baby when it did. The end was where Carter regained her ability to reveal events in perfect time, whether it was bit by bit or with an big explosion. The end was surprising and convincing. The events that transpired were scary and even more so because Cammie’s reactions sent her into hysterical confusion, allowing the reader a few pages of delicious confusion as well. The last two chapters of the book are Carter at her best, and even after dragging myself through 95% of the book, the end was good enough that I’m considering reading the next one (especially because it takes place in London. I can never pass up a book about London.)
I hope that Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover was a fleeting moment of confusion for Carter’s writing and that she’ll be back on track in the next Gallagher Girls book, Only the Good Spy Young. The series began too well for it to go downhill now.
On a different note, hello, readers! I’m happy to be back in the blogosphere after taking some (okay, a lot) of time off from reading and reviewing books to complete my undergraduate degree. Hopefully I’ll be able to review at least one more book before graduation on the eighteenth! I went to a bookstore today with a few of my friends, and showing an amount of common sense that I generally do not possess, I left my wallet at home. Had I not, I would have come home with a stack of books, which would have made me happy, but not my parents. Nevertheless, I did jot down a few titles. Let me know if you’ve read any of them!
The Anatomy of Death by Felicity Young
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
The List by Siobhan Vivian
My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve
You Have Seven Messages by Stuart Lewis