2.5/5The second instalment of the Gallagher Girls series picks up shortly after book 1 ended, with Cammie undergoing a debrief over her secret romance with Josh. Cammie just wants to get her life back to normal, back to the way it was pre-Josh, but she's got a surprise coming that will rock the foundations of her world.Back at school after Winter break, Cammie notices a few changes around her beloved all-girls spy-school: a few corridors are inaccessible, her mother's keeping secrets from her and there's a mysterious word being thrown around - "Blackthorne". It's at about this time that I felt that the quality of the book started declining, and didn't stop. Everything is introduced in quick succession in Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy: Cammie's friends, the secret about Blackthorne, the tantalising locked corridor. And less than 24 hours after making a vow to her mother to behave and stop sneaking around her school to figure out the answers to questions she's better off not asking, Cammie's planning a covert mission with her friends. I guess this means we get straight to the action, but there are a lot of coincidences.Cammie is a paradoxical, unbelievable character that I just barely abide to read about. She's meant to be super-smart, and yet, makes shortsighted decisions all the time, and very little of her training and skills go into making those decisions. Also, Cammie is written as someone who craves normalcy and shuns the limelight, always wishing she could just blend in and make people forget about her, and yet she goes out of her way to pull the stunts she does and obviously revels in being a star-pupil. There's nothing wrong with pride in oneself and one's achievements, but she's constantly pretending to be demure when she's really quite arrogant: Cammie doesn't exactly shy away from regaling readers with her skills, from rappelling down rope to blending in like a Chameleon, from acute observational skills (which abandon her the moment she needs them in real life, OMG how did she miss those boys following her around!) to fluency in a dozen or more languages.To further muddy the waters, the author introduces boys into the story, and what had previously been a passably enjoyable book turned into a frustrating, inexplicably silly read. The female students at Gallagher Academy literally go crazy when they see boys, there's so much nonsensical primping, showmanship and competition that I quickly grew tired, and then angry. I noted in the last book that I didn't like the insinuation that the only important thing in a teenage girl's life is boys. The competitive nature introduced to GG because of fifteen male visitors just panders to the myth that women can't get along once men are in the picture. But Carter goes one step further in this book and insinuates that every single girl goes nuts for the male visitors except for Macey, who's hung out with boys lots of times before her enrolment at Gallagher Girls, and Cammie, because she's had her one, incredibly short, pseudo-relationship with Josh. Carter actually uses the word "immune". I can't even ...One boy in particular quickly becomes a large art of the plot, and I have to say I really liked him. Cammie finds him infuriating and unknowable, but that's really just because of the way Cammie is written as a character. I think Zach is interesting and sweet, and love that while Cammie was digging her heels in and apparently couldn't let go of the fact that someone had beat her once in a training exercise (remember what I said about arrogance), he was genuinely trying to get along with her.Speaking of boys, I really, truly don't understand why the existence of a training school for male spies is considered shocking news for the girls. Where exactly did they think male spies were trained? Or did they assume that boys were born fully trained in covert operations? I didn't think it was such a big deal, in fact, I basically assumed there was a brother-school in my last review, so I was perplexed at the reactions Cammie and her friends had.I was really looking forward to getting a few clues to the big questions that were posed in the first book - such as what happened to Cammie's father - but I feel like Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy has barely added anything to the overall series-arc. In fact, plot-wise the book reads almost like a rehashing of the first book: spy school for girls, hot guy, secret, illicit meetings, training exercise in town, huge attack on the school where only Cammie and her friends are able to help, which turns out to be a test for the students. The level of hyperbole and melodrama achieved throughout the narrative irritated me as well - we're expected to believe the Cammie's mother killed someone with an issue of People magazine, that one's appearance can be completely altered with only a pair of nail clippers and shoe polish. Where does Carter get those ideas? Are they meant to be funny? Is the author making fun of the spy-craft genre, or is she seriously expecting us to believe that spies can do silly things like that?I think this sequel is a step backward from the first book, and didn't enjoy it very much at all. I now understand all the Zach-swooning that goes on by the readers, but there's very little substance to this series, which is a shame because it's a series about spies in training. I just feel like the books could be a lot more than they are. I will be continuing, because fans tell me that the plot darkens becomes about something other than boys in the future books, but I think, if I don't enjoy the third book, I'll be giving up.Generally described as a light, fun read, I think Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy will be enjoyed by readers who want to switch off for a few hours and read about the adventures of a girl who's training to become a leading covert operative.