When you’re a student at a school for spies, which is disguised as a tony all-girls academy, and by the way your mom is the headmistress … falling for a townie is a little tough.
I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You is the first in a series about the students at Gallagher Academy — the Gallagher Girls. I’m not sure if all the books in the series focus on the same protagonist (Cammie, the daughter of the headmistress), but there’s a good core group of four roommates established in this one that I could see getting books or spinoffs in the future.
The high concept (spy school) is great here, and there are some world-building touches that are cool. For example, there’s a sign over the cafeteria door that lets the girls know at every meal whether they should be griping about their homework in English (and if so with which accent) or Farsi or another of the twelve languages all the girls learn starting in seventh grade.
Cammie is a believable (if not particularly compelling) main character to follow through this world. She is capable and takes action. She is genuinely conflicted about whether to pursue espionage as a career, partly because her family history means she understands the risks in a very real way. On the other hand she is very good at it, at least compared to her peers. It’s kind of a bummer that the symbol of her potential other life is a boy with wavy hair whose dad wants him to take over the family pharmacy (what? is that a thing?). And he has no personality other than Perfect Boyfriend.
So here’s the thing. This is a fun, easy read, and there are some good world-building touches, but everything feels like it would fall apart after two “whys.” Everything. The school — how do they get twelve-year-olds to keep this secret, systematically, for decades? The characters — why is the perfect boyfriend’s bestie a raging, unashamed bully? I liked it fine when I was reading it, and I may well read another in the series, but I’ll have to keep myself from thinking about it too hard afterward ’cause it just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.