Thursday, July 19, 2007

innovative story concepts


Summertime has translated into more reading than writing for this blogger. A few posts ago the topic was high-concept YA novels, and this will be a brief discussion on one of them. "I'd tell you I loved you, but then I'd have to kill you," by Ally Carter, has an intriguing concept—the students at the 'Gallagher Academy for exceptional young women' are actually pursuing rigorous academic and field training to become spies. The secretive academy is off-limits to outsiders, and even the town in which it is situated has no idea of its nature. In addition to normal studies, the high school level girls learn to be fluent in up to fourteen languages, and are trained in covert operations, including the use of lethal force on adversaries. This would be an ambitious set of plot elements for any writer to keep in play while selecting and pursuing a story conflict and resolution. It could be addressed seriously, or perhaps as a spoof. Carter seems to have alighted somewhere in between. The story is nicely written, often humorous (Gallagher graduates were responsible for inventing such useful spy materials as 'Velcro' and duck-tape, and some national heroes—e.g. Amelia Earhart—are revealed as graduates). But the basic storyline is about Cammie, the girl protagonist, falling in love with a lower middle class boy from the nearby town. Now, all the esoteric spy elements can be dealt with as points of intrigue, and not treated too strenuously, while a straightforward, universal appeal, romance story is told. A fun, chick-lit story.

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