Title: Not If I Save You First
Author: Ally Carter
Publication: March 2018, Scholastic Press
Audience: Young Adult
You can find the book (or look up a local indie bookstore) at Bookshop.org.
Honestly, the book summary left much to be desired. A few days ago I saw this book on my TBR list on Libby, and saw that the audiobook (narrated by Brittany Pressley) was available. I glanced at the summary and was in the mood for some teen angst mixed with the action and intrigue promised by the Secret Service/First Family angle. But really, I had no idea what the book would be about when I started.
I was very pleasantly surprised. I laughed, and I’m pretty sure at one point I shed multiple tears. One of my students just told me this past week that she doesn’t like to read — I’m hoping this book will become an exception for her.
So anyway, here it goes. (Check out my Review Rubric for context on how I rate books.)
There were twists, jokes, mysterious villains, and a healthy dose of suspense. I was hooked from the start, and the story never let me down. All I could hope for in a standalone novel to read on a cozy winter night. Make some tea, curl up in a soft blanket, and enjoy the adventure.
Style and Content:
Ally Carter is a pro, so this rating shouldn’t come as a surprise. I had no qualms with the craft, and no scruples with the story. The characters were clearly developed and delineated, and fairly realistic in their aging. Carter doesn’t let the plot lag, and she avoids simplistic resolutions to conflict. She’s not afraid of the stakes. I always admire writers who can write arguments well, and she clearly can.
I mean, like I said before, she knows what she’s doing. I knew I enjoyed her playfulness and sense of humor when I read I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You. But it was a little younger, more on the middle grade than YA side of the spectrum, so the social drama didn’t grab me so much. On that book, I’d have given 4 stars here. But I can’t reasonably do that after reading this one. I’m hooked, and ready for more.
The only reason this isn’t a five is because I’m not raving about this book to everyone. There are just certain people who I don’t think would appreciate it (because they don’t read fiction, they don’t take YA seriously, etc.) and I wouldn’t want to waste this gem on them. Its appeal may not be universal, and I don’t want anyone raining on this parade.
If this book were a human, I’d want to be their friend. I’d want to banter with them over text and complain about the little things to them. We’d probably hang out occasionally and order pizza to eat while we watch Oceans 11 in our fluffiest, comfiest pajamas.