I should really have no excuse for this one. With this kind of title and the obvious tween-style title, I really have no business reading I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You. I mainly picked it up because I thought it might be so bad it's hilarious. Having finished it, my feelings are considerably more mixed.
I'd Tell You I Love You follows Cammie "The Chameleon" Morgan in her sophomore year of private school as she falls in love for the first time. This is complicated somewhat by the fact that Cammie attends a school specifically training the all-female student body to become spies for government organisations like the CIA and NSA, and her new crush can't ever learn this.
As a plot, this is both far too simple and unnecessarily complicated. It is simple because the events of the novel focus almost entirely on Cammie's exploration of her new feelings, with side plots like her tempestuous relationship with a new teacher and the father of one of her best friends going AWOL get so little attention that they lend little to no texture; additionally, there are some obstacles presented that turn out to be such let-downs that they might as well have not been there. It's unnecessarily complicated because there are a lot of moral implications that espionage entails that such a simple plot can't hope to fully encompass. For example, Cammie knows right from the beginning that the students from the Gallagher Academy are viewed with palpable contempt from the local town, Roseville. As such, when she starts pursuing her love interest, she lies and tells him that she's home-schooled for religious reasons. This is the least of the deceptions that she creates in order to win over her chosen boy, including fabricating her own birthday and family history. I find this very uncomfortable, as the foundation of any good relationship is trust; admittedly, while the narrative does attempt to address this and other issues, it takes her far too long to realise that this might be seriously underhanded and unfair towards a boy who is essentially loving a pack of lies. I will give the author props for at least addressing this though, as the ending tends strongly towards the bittersweet part of the spectrum. The only thing that bothered me about the spying bit was the Covert Operations stuff about looking out for your team. While I can understand the concept of minimising risk and the potential for information leaks, it seems to assume that the teams they'll be working in will be friendship groups, with the inherent desire to keep them safe. To me that seems a flawed perspective: in espionage, they aren't going to put you in friendship groups, because, ultimately, your friendship is less important to your employer than the stuff you are supposed to be stealing or sabotaging; if anything, the emphasis on keeping your team safe is taken to such an extreme that it starts to become a liability.
My other main issue is the characterisation. I know what Cammie is like, because she narrates the story. I can't say the same about anyone else really. Cammie's best friends are stated to be Bex and Liz, but I couldn't tell you much about them other than Bex is the gregarious friend while Liz is the geeky friend. There's really very little to them otherwise. It means that when you get to the inevitable, "choose between a boy and friends" quandary, it wouldn't have made a difference to me whatever one she chose: both sides had personalities akin to cardboard.
I wanted to like this, but I don't think that the writing and construction really lived up to the interesting prospects created by the basic plot. Props to Ally Carter for trying, but average at best. 2.5/5
Next review: Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris