Speculating on SpecFic

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Only the Good Spy Young  - Ally Carter Despite having enjoyed the third book of the series, there were a lot of things that bothered me about Only the Good Spy Young, the fourth instalment of the Gallagher Girls. In part, this was because of my impatience with incorrect science, and in part because of my frustration with the way Cammie talks about Liz. I liked the action aspect of the novel, and although most of the surprises failed to actually surprise me, the ones that did were huge!Following the trend set in book three, the action begins very early on in the novel - I love getting straight to the meat! The first two books dwelled too much on rehashing the past and explaining the rather simple premise of The Gallagher Academy, in my opinion. So the action starts, and straight away we (and Cammie) are doubting "facts" that we've believed since the first book. Cammie's a little slow on the uptake (as usual) and although I was able to breathe through it and justify her reactions as shock, I was incredibly frustrated at how slowly her neurons work (as usual).But I was enjoying the book quite a bit, and tentatively having positive feelings about it when, at page 43, it began to go downhill. The thing that caught my eye is that Cammie describes the uber-special limousine that she's being driven around in as having tyres made entirely of rubber (rather than being inflated with air). The justification was that they'd never get a flat. I was immediately annoyed. Basically, this is a silly idea, and it fills me with a deep fear that super-smart spies who are entrusted with the safety of us non-spies don't know the basic principles of physics and chemistry (even though Cammie is always harping on about the advanced stuff they do).Added to this are small inconsistencies that I found irritating, particularly that Bex calls her mother Mom, not Mum, and that, when considering the operation reports that a certain character writes in a diary, their voice is very similar to Cammie's. It's highly unlikely that another character would fill out covert operations reports in the same syntax and style that Cammie uses, often using similar patterns of speech. And my favourite line from the book? "It can't be illegal, Cam. It's research." So say all the stalkers of the world. So say all the stalkers.The way that Cammie talks about the only person in the gang who isn't training to be a field operative, Liz, irritated me. She (Cammie) is always remarking on Liz's clumsiness, her inability to function in real life, and her lack of observational skills, and at one point insinuates that missions would probably be more successful without Liz. At one point, it's Liz's oversight that lands the gang in hot water, and I just don't understand how it happened. Cammie is always telling readers how exceptional Gallagher Girls are. How smart and observant. How they always know what's going on around them, remember numbers on cards, note when people cringe or startle, when people are wearing the wrong shoes. So I don't care that Liz has been put into the Research stream instead of the Investigation Stream at Gallagher - she did the same training courses as Cammie and her friends for a long time, and I feel it's unlikely that she didn't realise that her bag was open. I just feel like Cammie's always making a case for 'oh look the nerd isn't as good as us at the real spy stuff', which is, frankly, insulting.I love the role that Zach plays in this book - he hovers around the background, and came in when appropriate, but the story never devolves to him hand-holding Cammie through the secrets and mysteries. He gives clues, but the book is all about the smarts that Cammie and her friends have, not Zach's. And I like how conscious Cammie is that she really doesn't know this boy - she's wary around him, and when surrounded by people she can't trust, the acknowledges that she doesn't trust him either. I do hope these two work out a way to be together despite all the secrets and shadows and lies.Plot-wise I think the book is mediocre: there weren't many elements that surprised me. I'd guessed at Book 2 how Blackthorne would be disguised, but admittedly hadn't even been close to guessing what they trained to do there. I'd guessed the great big secret about the female assassin in the last book, but never imagined her familial connections to the main characters. Other developments were foreshadowed so poorly that the author basically stuck signs all around saying 'look at this character' or 'see what they said there?!' and it was all very obvious and clumsy.There were moments of brilliance - Cammie's reaction to the theme park was great (her serious lack of judgement in that situation was not), and there were a few really cute, funny lines. Finally getting to see Blackthorne was awesome, and I loved the journey the gang took to get there. I also liked the way Agent Townsend was written - he was good then bad then good then bad, and it kept me on my toes. I like that Cammie showed a lot more initiative in this book, and took her safety more seriously than before. However, the risks she did take surprised me, and although I understood the thought-process behind then, I could still see other avenues she might have pursued.There's a lot to like about the Gallagher Girls series - it's premise, the funny way it's written, the sisterhood of girls who back one another up. But there's also quite a bit that makes me sad or angry - the undertones of superiority over 'nerds', the lack of sophistication in the writing, the obviously incorrect physical concepts (killing people with uncooked spaghetti etc.). I think I'm approaching the books all wrong - maybe I'm meant to switch my brain off and just read them, but I can't, and these things keep nagging at me.The ending of the book took me completely by surprise, and hint at Cammie stepping up her game. With two books in the series to go, I'm looking forward to uncovering all the mysteries and seeing how Cammie and her friends get through the mess that's cropped up. Only the Good Spy Young isn't the best book of the Gallagher series so far, but it's not the worst either :-)A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic.