Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

The Blurb On The Back:

Dear Logan,

Someday I’m going to write a book: How Not to Die in Alaska – A Girl’s Guide to Fashionable Survival.

I bet you don’t know that a hair pin can make an excellent fishing hook.  You may think you can use just any kind of mud masks, but trust me, you CAN’T! in a pinch, nothing starts a fire like nail polish remover.

Alaska is tough.  You might know this, if you ever replied to my letters …  

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Six years ago Madeline “Maddie” Manchester was visiting her best friend Logan at the White House where they were supposed to attend a party for a delegation from Russia (Logan’s dad is the President and Madeline’s dad his bodyguard).  But when a group of Russians attempt to kidnap the First Lady, Logan, his mother and Maddie’s father are all injured and although the three make a recovery, Maddie’s father quits his job and moves Maddie and himself to a remote cabin in Alaska.

Keen to keep their friendship alive, Maddie sent letter after letter to Logan but never received a reply and never expected to see him again …

Maddie’s now 16 and when her father tells her that they’ll be hosting a visitor to their cabin, she’s less than impressed to find Logan – complete with his secret service detail – at her door.  Logan’s been sent there because his reckless behaviour is risking the life of both him and his guards and he’s under orders to do whatever Maddie’s dad tells him to do, when he’s told to do it (and maybe learn some of the survival skills that Maddie’s picked up along the way).  But when Maddie’s dad is called away unexpectedly, she’s left to entertain him and she isn’t in the mood to be nice.

Now aged 16, Maddie is surprised when her father tells her that they will have a visitor to their cabin: it’s Logan – complete with secret service guards – who’s been sent there due to his inability to obey the instructions of his guards, which constantly puts him in danger.  Logan says he never received Maddie’s letters and is keen to rekindle their friendship (and maybe something more) but Maddie is more cautious.

Soon though the two have to learn to trust each other because someone has come to Alaska to kidnap Logan and will kill anyone who gets in his way …

Ally Carter’s standalone YA survival thriller has a cute idea but is sadly a limp and predictable affair with a central romance that never catches light, cardboard cut-out antagonists, a plot that’s full of holes, and some eye-rolling moments that combined to make me relieved to get to the end.

The big problem for me with this book is Maddie and Logan and their “romance”.  For me there was no spark between them at all, which is a shame because the early scenes showing their younger friendship did work well for me and I enjoyed the chatter and comfort that they have with each other and I actually wished that Carter had kept them as friends rather than forcing a non-existent sexual attraction on them.

Maddie herself is so-so.  I understood why Carter was keen to show that just because a girl learns how to cut wood and survive in the wilderness doesn’t mean she loses interest in make-up but I don’t think Carter got the balance of that quite right as at times Maddie over-emphasis how she’s still into “girl” things.  It’s made worse when Maddie decides to over-emphasise her girly cluelessness with the antagonist by emphasising her interest in her hair and nails – I found the dialogue in these scenes excruciating and so unconvincing that it made me wince when the antagonist apparently falls for it.

Logan, by contrast, is really bland.  I didn’t quite get what he’s supposed to be rebelling against or the source of his antagonism with his father (Carter suggests that Logan feels inadequate but it’s underdeveloped and never convinced).  I liked the fact that Carter was flipping the usual scenario by putting the boy in jeopardy rather than the girl but I think she fell into the traditional trap of making the boy pretty useless and I certainly never warmed to him (not least because he treats the secret service as red shirts – even though he’s supposed to like some of them).

The kidnap plot really doesn’t make much sense and it’s not helped by the fact that Carter’s antagonists are pretty flat and their motivation doesn’t really get explained until the final quarter (at which point you start spotting a large number of holes in the entire scenario).

Ultimately I have to say that I was very disappointed with this book because I had read another book by Carter a few years ago and really enjoyed it.  By itself, it hasn’t put me off reading her other work, but it’s definitely a blip.

NOT IF I SAVE YOU FIRST was released in the United Kingdom on 27thMarch 2018.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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