48 pages 1 hour read

Ally Carter

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2006

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Summary and Study Guide


I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (Hyperion Books for Children, 2006) is the first installment in the Gallagher Girls series of young adult spy novels and is followed by New York Times bestseller Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (2007). The book follows a 15-year-old girl as she straddles the spy world and the world of “normal” teenagers and learns who she is and where she belongs. I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You was selected as a Texas Lone Star reading list book in 2007-2008. Ally Carter is the author of over a dozen books for children and adults that have appeared on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon, among others. Before becoming an author, Carter earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture. She wrote her debut novel in her free time and now works as a full-time author. She lives in Oklahoma. This guide follows the Hyperion Books for Children 2006 edition of the book.

Plot Summary

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You is a mission report written by protagonist and narrator 15-year-old Cameron “Cammie” Morgan about an incident during the previous semester at the Gallagher School for Exceptional Young women. Cammie is a sophomore at what she calls “spy school,” where she’s earned the nickname “chameleon” because she excels at remaining unseen. With the help of her best friends, Bex and Liz, as well as newcomer Macey, Cammie learns her place in the world and that she isn’t as invisible as she thinks.

Cammie’s attended the Gallagher Academy since the seventh grade, and despite it being a school for spies, little has really changed in the last three years. At the beginning of her sophomore year, Mr. Joe Solomon arrives as the new Covert Operations professor, and the entire sophomore class instantly develops a crush on him. With the arrival of Macey McHenry, daughter of a renowned senator, the school gossip is at an all-time high while the girls quickly learn that primping for the hot new professor isn’t as easy as they thought. Macey’s experience outside the Gallagher world is a big help, and when the first Covert Operations field assignment rolls around, the girls feel prepared, both with their appearance and spy skills.

Mr. Solomon sends Cammie, Bex, and Liz into the field to tail one of their professors, a man with over 30 years of experience avoiding detection. Bex and Liz are caught before the assignment is complete, but Cammie evades detection and retrieves the required information, only to find a boy across the street watching her. Feeling seen for one of the first times in her life, Cammie makes up a story about being homeschooled because she doesn’t want the boy to dislike her since the academy has a reputation as a school for spoiled rich girls. She knows it’s dangerous, but Cammie returns to school resolved to see the boy, Josh, again.

Over the next several weeks, Bex, Liz, and Cammie set up surveillance on Josh, mostly to give Cammie a chance to impress him but also to make sure he isn’t spying on the school. No evidence leads them to believe Josh is an enemy agent, and Cammie sneaks out as often as possible to go on dates and meet the people in his life. Each time she sees Josh, Cammie feels more and more “normal,” something she comes to crave amid her life of sneaking, hacking, and explosive lab gases.

One weekend, the sophomore class goes into town for a shopping day. Cammie sneaks away to the pharmacy where Josh works, hiding when one of the other girls in her class enters to get medication. A group of boys arrives and taunts the girl, one of the smallest in the class. While Cammie grapples with whether to blow her cover, Bex and Macey help the girl, and later Cammie’s friends are disappointed that she didn’t step in to help.

One of the boys at the pharmacy recognizes Cammie from a previous meeting and sees her with the other Gallagher girls. Liz intercepts an email between him and Josh with plans to get proof Cammie attends the Gallagher Academy. Knowing she has to set things right, Cammie goes to confront Josh, admitting she does go to the school even as his disgust for the academy breaks her heart. Angry and hurt, Cammie stalks away, only to be kidnapped on the street.

Her kidnappers are her professors, and this is her Covert Operations final exam. Cammie escapes capture and meets the rest of the sophomores. They sneak through a building to retrieve the package they need to pass the test, sending most of the class out to distract the professors while one girl sneaks into the room where the package is and escapes. As Mr. Solomon realizes the girls passed the test, Josh drives a forklift through a wall of the building: He saw Cammie get captured and is there to rescue her.

Back at the academy, a few professors talk to Josh and tell him the truth about the school. Cammie wonders if she’ll be able to keep him as a friend, possibly more, until she learns he was given memory-wiping tea, which means he will forget everything after he sleeps. With her link to Josh broken, Cammie realizes she belongs at spy school with her friends and leaves behind any desire to be “normal” to face the rest of her final exams.