I’ve talked about my love for Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series on this site before. I talked about how smart they are, how perfectly paced and well planned and manage to capture just the right tone for each individual book. I’m pretty sure Ally Carter has to be some sort of writing robot/machine, because, for me, almost every book I’ve read by her has been just as flawless. (My love for Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals is also well documented). I think Out of Sight, Out of Time, the fifth in the Gallagher Girls series, is probably the best yet. This review is probably a little rambly, even for me, because I loved every aspect of this book. Every single one, and I kind of feel like I could talk about it for days.
The last thing Cammie Morgan remembers is leaving the Gallagher Academy to protect her friends and family from the Circle of Cavan–an ancient terrorist organization that has been hunting her for over a year. But when Cammie wakes up in an alpine convent and discovers months have passed, she must face the fact that her memory is now a black hole. The only traces left of Cammie’s summer vacation are the bruises on her body and the dirt under her nails, and all she wants is to go home.
Once she returns to school, however, Cammie realizes that even the Gallagher Academy now holds more questions than answers. Cammie, her friends, and mysterious spy-guy Zach must face their most difficult challenge yet as they travel to the other side of the world, hoping to piece together the clues that Cammie left behind. It’s a race against time. The Circle is hot on their trail and willing stop at nothing to prevent Cammie from remembering what she did last summer.
The best thing about the Gallagher Girls series (besides, you know, the characters and the suspense and the writing and pretty much everything), is that it’s clearly part of a series, but each book stands alone. Each plot is self-contained, but is also a piece of a bigger puzzle. Each plot grows the characters and gets them ready for the next challenge. It makes these books suspenseful to read and yet still satisfying. It makes you sigh with contentment when you put it down only to pout five minutes later that you can’t find out where Cammie and her friends are going next. The plot in Out of Sight, Out of Time, was actually a pretty emotional plot, for both Cammie and the reader. There’s still action, no doubt, but there is, as always with these books, something extra, another motivator that makes that action important and relevant. This was, I think, the most impactful emotional punch of the series. For a girl like Cammie, who’s spent her whole life as the Chameleon, to suddenly be thrust into the center of attention? Terrifying. Add into it that she’s been trained her whole life to see and put together details and suddenly she can’t remember the most important six months of her life? I can’t even fathom. The fact that Cammie is so proactive about everything in her life just means that the action is always pushing forward and we’re getting answers steadily because Cammie is figuring them out as she goes. And go she does, to Ireland and Italy and the Alps. But all of these places fit into the puzzle that is the book’s mystery. Almost every single thing she does is important, and the attention to details is stunning. So stunning that I can’t give you any of them without spoiling the intricacy of the plot for you.
Cammie is my girl. I love Cammie. Cammie, for me, epitomizes what makes these books so good. She’s seventeen years old and a senior in high school, but it’s a high school for spies. She’s trained to be stealthy and smart and rational and objective and all sorts of things that, if stupid stereotypes are to be believed,completely contradict the normal emotional state of a teenager. But…she’s still a seventeen year old girl. She still cares about her friends and a boy (and can I just say here that Cammie has flawless taste on this front). She cares about walking down the hall and feeling like a freak. She wants to giggle and be silly and put on her jammies and gab with her friends. But when the stuff hits the fan? I can think of few people I’d rather have on my side than Cammie Morgan. She’s so loyal and brave and selfless in the best way she knows how. But she also expects too much of herself and is her own worst critic. Never in that “What? I’m pretty? Me!?” sort of way so many YA heroines seem to be, but rather in the way that says she’s trying to learn from her mistakes. She wigs out about her lack of memory because it’s one of the most important things in her life. She comes back and wants to be her old self but somehow knows she can’t, knows she has to figure out where to go next. I like that she reacts stupidly to situations, fumes about it in her head, and then, when she realizes she’s wrong, is quick to admit, yes, ok, I’m an idiot and I’m sorry.
The supporting cast is as great as ever. I loved Bex in this book, because she reacted just like I’d imagine any best friend would. She was mad but still loved Cammie. She wasn’t ready to forget Cammie leaving, but the way they handled it made me so happy. The same goes for Liz (who I kind of missed in this book) and Macey (who becomes more boss with every turn of the page). Plus, when their wonder-friend powers activate? It makes for fun reading. An alarm for Cammie’s bed? Genius and hysterical while still managing to highlight that these are three friends who thought they’d lost their fourth forever.
Then there are the adults. I think the adults might be my favorite thing about these books because, well, they act like adults. Cammie’s mom is so protective of her, but she also recognizes that she’s raised this amazing, capable spy and it means that Cammie and her friends aren’t shut out when they can help just because they’re kids. And then clearly there’s Joe and Aunt Kate.
And Zach. Holy crap, Zach. Zach is, I think, easily one of my top three male characters in young adult books. He’s amazing, on his own and with Cammie. My very favorite thing? He respects and admires the girl he cares about. He knows that she’s capable and there’s a fifty/fifty shot she could kick his ass on any given day. He knows that he can help her, but he doesn’t have to save her. The rock wall at the end? Amazing. He wants to shield her from all the bad things, but knows when he can’t. He treats Cammie like his equal because she is. But he also likes all the things that make her Cammie, not just the spy parts. This isn’t to say Zach’s perfect. No matter how much he respects and admires her, he also really likes her and when he thinks she’s in trouble he panics, like any sane person would. And he has a temper and he is maybe prone to jealousy but he hides it like he hides most of his emotions. He has depth, is what I’m saying.
The romance is never the central plot of any of Ally Carter’s books (family and friends and, you know, actual plot always seem more important to the story and to her heroines), but it always simmers in the background. And here, it plays perfectly into the plot and ties him with Cammie in a way that makes them seem fated, but not in the supernatural way. More in the, only you can really understand this kind of way.
These are books that might seem twee based on their covers, but they aren’t. They’re smart and mature, and they only get more so as each book progresses and each character grows. These are the kinds of books I recommend to everyone I know, because I think they have that kind of appeal. They’re fun and witty but they matter. These are on that list of books that I want to have daughters just so I can hand them this series and say, please read this and remember that girls are awesome. Out of Sight, Out of Time added whole new levels to Cammie’s story, and I can’t fathom not being able to slip back into Cammie’s world for another year at least. Read this book. Read this series. And then have fun recommending it to everyone you know.