Defining gated communities / Privatopias


There are a number of private, heavily fortified schools in recent YA fictions (I’m thinking Vampire Academy and Gallagher Girls Academy)…. While not technically ‘gated communities’, the use of such settings for these stories of adolescence kind of interests me. I can’t help wondering what role the setting plays (and thinking about literature on gated communities in response). According to R. Atkinson and S. Blandy:

“Defining gated communities is difficult and contentious. There are two aspects of such residential neighborhoods which make them distinct from other examples of secured accommodation (such as high-rise condominiums with concierge staff or individual houses with gated access). The first aspect is, of course, the physical constitution of such neighborhoods, but even then there may be differing degrees of ‘gatedness’. In some gated communities we may find gates or booms across the road and in others it may be that gates block car access (or theft) while adjacent pedestrian thoroughfares are not controlled in the same way. The main differentiating physical feature of gated communities is that where access would ordinarily be expected in an ‘open’ neighborhood, it is restricted or available for control in a gated community.

The second key hallmark of gated communities is their legal constitution. As developers have built gated communities they have effectively created privately organized neighborhoods with their own infrastructure, including internal roads, common spaces, and services such as refuse collection. Unlike open neighborhoods, where roads are managed and repaired by the local state, gated communities are run by residents’ management committees, known as homeowners’ associations in the US. These governance organizations are often controlled by the developer in the first instance, and are then taken over by residents who pay an annual contribution for the maintenance of infrastructure and services provided to residents. These services may also extend to the employment of maintenance staff and security personnel and the use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems. Many gated communities also have their own amenities such as gyms and swimming pools, or are built around golf courses or sailing lakes, which are also paid for and managed by the residents.” (p.297)

“The relatively more recent trend toward purposebuilt gated developments as the preserve of the affluent began in nineteenth-century North America, and has accelerated over the last 50 years to the point where in some US states it is now almost impossible to purchase a new dwelling that is not located in an enclosed private neighborhood. It would be wrong to conclude that the parallel growth of gated communities worldwide has necessarily been influenced by developments in the USA. However, such developments are now common both in countries where this type of built form represents a relative novelty, as well as in regions, notably China and the Middle East, where inward-looking, multi-occupied residential developments have always been part of the architectural heritage.” (p.297)

“Gated communities can be broadly differentiated between three types of development, each meeting different consumer needs. ‘Prestige’ gated communities enable their residents to enjoy an urban lifestyle while providing complete security. ‘Lifestyle’ developments incorporate exclusive leisure and other facilities, while the third type is the ‘security zone’, an inner-city or inner-suburban area retro-fitted with walls, gates, and other security features, usually at the request of residents. Subsequently, analysis of the 2001 American Housing Survey has undermined the usual assumption that gated communities are the preserve of wealthy homeowners, by showing that low-income, non-white, renters are now more likely to live in gated developments than owner occupiers.” (p.298)

“From residents’ points of view, in high-crime societies like Latin America, the USA, and South Africa, the recent increase in gated communities can be seen as a relatively rational response to a fear of violent disorder and personal harm.” (p.298)

“The small amount of evidence on whether gated communities prevent crime or not for such neighborhoods is contradictory.” (p.298)

“Gated communities appear to be growing in their prevalence by appealing to people with concerns about crime, as well as delivering prestige and privacy for those motivated by such issues in their residential decisions. However, the limited anthropological evidence available so far tends to show that, in fact, the residents of gated communities are highly susceptible to fear of crime directed at those outside the boundaries of gated communities, as well as at service personnel who continue to connect these spaces of relative privilege with less-well off communities outside, and who are therefore also viewed as a possible threat.

Since gated communities have not been a regular feature of urban life until perhaps the last 15 years, and then predominantly in Latin America, South Africa, and North America, the longer-run implications of social life in these kinds of neighborhoods have not been fully thought through. However, some writers have begun to ask what will happen to children who grow up in the kind of predictable, racially homogenous, and privileged spaces of gated communities. These fears, of a withdrawn, shy, fearful, and affluent class have recently been realized in cities like Moscow where the growth of a super-rich social elite has led to the protection of their children in gated communities, as well as being trailed by personal bodyguards. Again, the implications of these lifestyles for the future views and social politics of affluent classes brought up in protected neighborhood environments is unlikely to be positive, with possible impacts on a lack of empathy with people from different social backgrounds, as well as a fear of such difference.” (p.299)

“Everyday life within a gated community is largely regulated by legal documents, which set out the rules with which residents must comply, and the arrangements for self-governance by the homeowners. These non-negotiable legal instruments undermine the concept of gated neighborhoods as voluntary communities able to develop their own informal controls
and sanctions. Existing evidence on life within gated communities thus suggests a high degree of regulation that must be accepted in order to find distinctiveness and safety for the purchaser’s household. Such developments may offer security or privacy but in a context in which, ironically, the freedoms of residents need to be sacrificed to achieve the apparent benefits of ‘gated’ living.” (p.299)

“Gated communities have figured in significant literary examples. For J. G. Ballard, collectively privatized neighborhoods have formed a significant setting for many of his novels, particularly Running Wild, Super Cannes, and Cocaine Nights. In fact the idea of enclosure and rarified environments in which often affluent residents run amok outside the normative restraints of mass society has become a recurring theme for Ballard.” (p.299)

“More recently T. C. Boyle has [-p.300] used the desires of an affluent community to gate their estate as a literary device in The Tortilla Curtain, in which an affluent young couple are confronted by their own fear and prejudices as they encounter desperate poor Mexican migrants on the US border. As fears of the Mexicans increase, fueled by the prejudices of a minority of residents, a surrounding fence and gates are finally installed against their instinctive rejection by the story’s ambivalent hero. Dystopian fictional treatments like these highlight the way in which gating can be seen as a zeitgeist through which we understand a series of wider social and physical transformations affecting an increasing range and number of cities.” (pp.299-300)

“…privatization of what would otherwise be public spaces has driven wider debates about the relative influence of gated communities on social life in urban areas which have, particularly in the European context, been associated with the diversity and democracy of the street. This raises a broader question about the implications of forting up for the character of Western urban life. If we take away freedom of access to the street what does a city become? For example, some commentators have that this form of hyper-segregation and fortification represents a new and critical moment which has transformed cities with earlier histories of open and democratic public spaces into a series of enclaves which protect affluent residents, while leaving an envious and poorer class of residents outside these protected bubbles.” (p.300)

“Gated communities are also notable for their growth in societies characterized by lower prevailing crime rates and higher levels of social cohesion. In this sense such ‘communities’ may be seen as social barometers indicating much deeper undercurrents of social fear and aspiration toward ex-territoriality as the signifier of membership to an affluent and secure class. In this context the significance of gated communities lies less in their number and more in what they say about a wider bundle of social forces that are directing where and how people live. Nevertheless, the continued growth of gated communities suggests that they are an increasingly significant proportion of dwellings, both responding to and perhaps also generating anxiety.” (p.301)

Ref: R. Atkinson, S. Blandy (2009) Gated Communities/Privatopias  pp. 297-301 International Encyclopedia of Human Geography


“Education after Abu Ghraib” – Giroux


Back in 2004, Henry Giroux wrote a fascinating essay on the connections between education and the individual and collective ability to reject institutionalised violence. His argument draws on Theodor Adorno’s essay, ‘Education after Auschwitz’, but reviews Adorno’s principles through the more recent experience of Abu Ghraib. I only just found it, but consider it incredibly thought-provoking and still absolutely relevant nearly ten years on…

Giroux analyses the media portrayal and public reception of the Abu Ghraib abuses. He spends some time (space?) considering the political aspects of how the photos were read and it’s all worth quoting… anyway… Giroux, for example, asserts that:

What is often ignored in the debates about Abu Ghraib, both in terms of its causes and what can be done about it, are questions that foreground the relevance of critical education to the debate. Such questions would clearly focus, at the very least, on what pedagogical conditions need to be in place to enable people to view the images of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison not as part of a voyeuristic, even pornographic, reception but through a variety of discourses that enable them to ask critical and probing questions that get at the heart of how people learn to participate in sadistic acts of abuse and torture, internalize racist assumptions that make it easier to dehumanize people different from themselves, accept commands that violate basic human rights, become indifferent to the suffering and hardships of others, and view dissent as basically unpatriotic.” (p.792)

He goes on: “I am concerned about what the events of [-p.792] Abu Ghraib prison might suggest about education as both the subject and object of a democratic society and how we might engage it differently. What kind of education connects pedagogy and its diverse sites to the formation of a critical citizenry capable of challenging the ongoing quasi-militarization of everyday life, growing assault on secular democracy, the collapse of politics into a permanent war against terrorism, and a growing culture of fear that increasingly is used by political extremists to sanction the unaccountable exercise of presidential power? What kinds of educational practices can provide the conditions for a culture of questioning and engaged civic action? What might it mean to rethink the educational foundation of politics so as to reclaim not only the crucial traditions of dialogue and dissent but also critical modes of agency and those public spaces that enable collectively engaged struggle? How might education be understood both as a task of translation but also as a foundation for enabling civic engagement? What new forms of education might be called forth to resist the conditions and complicities that have allowed most people to submit ‘so willingly to a new political order organized around fear?’ (Greider 2004, p. 14). What does it mean to imagine a future beyond ‘permanent war’, a culture of fear and the triumphalism that promotes the sordid demands of empire? How might education be used to question the common sense of the war on terrorism or to rouse citizens to challenge the social, political, and cultural conditions that lead to the horrible events of Abu Ghraib? Just as crucially, we must ponder the limits of education. Is there a point where extreme conditions short-circuit our moral instincts and ability to think and act rationally? If this is the case, what responsibility do we have to challenge the reckless violence-as-first-resort-ethos of the Bush administration?
Such questions extend beyond the events of Abu Ghraib, but at the same time, Abu Ghraib provides an opportunity to connect the sadistic treatment of Iraqi prisoners to the task of redefining pedagogy as an ethical practice, the sites in which it takes place, and the consequences it has for rethinking the meaning of politics in the twenty-first century.” (pp.792-793)

Explaining the essay by Adorno that he draws on in this essay, Giroux writes, “Adorno’s plea for education as a moral and political force against human injustice is just as relevant today as it was following the revelations about Auschwitz after World War II.” (p.794)

Implicit in Adorno’s argument is the recognition that education as a critical practice could provide the means for disconnecting common sense learning from the narrowly ideological impact of mass media, the regressive tendencies associated with hyper-masculinity, the rituals of everyday violence, the inability to identify with others, as well as from the pervasive ideologies of state repression and its illusions of empire. Adorno’s response to retrograde ideologies and practices was to emphasize the role of autonomous individuals and the force of self-determination that he saw as the outcome of a moral and political project that rescued education from the narrow language of skills, unproblematized authority and the seduction of common sense. Self-reflection, the ability to call things into question, and the willingness to resist the material and symbolic forces of domination were central to an education that refused to repeat the horrors of the past and engaged the possibilities of the future. Adorno urged educators to teach students how to be critical, to learn how to resist those ideologies, needs, social relations, and discourses that lead back to a politics where authority is simply obeyed and the totally administered society reproduces itself through a mixture of state force and often orchestrated consensus. Freedom in this instance meant being able to think critically and act courageously, even when confronted with the limits of one’s knowledge. Without such thinking critical debate and dialogue degenerates into slogans, and politics, disassociated from the search for justice becomes a power grab. Within the realm of education, Adorno glimpsed the possibility of knowledge for self and social formation as well as the importance of pedagogical practices capable of ‘influencing the next generation of Germans so that they would not repeat what their parents or grandparents had done’ (Hohendahl 1995, p. 51).” (p.795)

Human autonomy through self-reflection and social critique became for Adorno the basis for developing forms of critical agency as a means of resisting and overcoming both fascist ideology and identification with what he calls the fascist collective. According to Adorno, fascism as a form of barbarism defies all educational attempts at self-formation, engaged critique, self-determination, and transformative engagement. He writes: ‘The only true force against the principle of Auschwitz would be human autonomy . . . that is, the force of reflection and of self-determination, the will to refuse participation’ (Hohendahl 1995, p. 58).” (p.796)

So much of what Giroux writes here seems to advocate for the kind of critical literacy that educational theorists and leaders desire, but struggle to push through in terms of actual assessment systems and educational organisation. It also had me thinking of any number of ways that popular literature could be developed for discussion in the classroom (spy fiction, for example…)… still thinking it all through – definitely worth a read or two.

Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine) Henry A. Giroux (2004): Education after Abu Ghraib, Cultural Studies, 18:6, 779-815

Reference is to: Greider, W. (2004) ‘Under the banner of the ‘‘war’’ on terror’, The Nation, 21 June, p. 14.
Hohendahl, P. U. (1995) Prismatic Thought: Theodor Adorno, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE.

Global citizenship


There’s a book I really like, called Freedom (by Nick Stevenson). The whole thing is quotable, but certain sections had me thinking about: spy fiction (in terms of the kind of international relations it works with); urban fantasy (in terms of the kinds of citizenship(s) it works); and what dialogic practices are valued in Young Adult fiction, and a few other things really… Stevenson writes:Freedom - Nick Stevenson

“The freedom to think, debate, argue, create, organise ourselves politically, gain protection of the law and not to suffer unnecessary bodily hardship all depend upon the state.” (p.59)

There is no meaningful global citizenship without a world state, which in turn is likely to remain a fiction in a world where the most powerful nation states are unlikely to be corrected through the use of international law. A citizen is someone who belongs to a meaningful political community that is governed by the rule of law and who has rights and responsibilities similar to others in that community. On this reading, citizenship remains overwhelmingly although not exclusively located at the level of the nation state. There is of course the struggle for human rights but these are mostly attempts to influence local conditions. Elsewhere some environmental activists have tried to take on the mantle of the global citizen by adopting low-carbon lifestyles. This, they argue, is about taking global responsibility as it is the lives of the poor of the planet which are most likely to be affected by climate change. We should also not forget that there is still the possibility of global compassion and of ordinary citizens responding to appeals for charity beyond the borders of the nation. Here there is an attempt in the era of global media to link local struggles to more global concerns. Protestors against weapons systems, the growth of local food, action taken against the pollution of the seas or the depletion of species diversity are all attempts to link local struggles to more global frameworks.” (p.61)

“Freedom needs to become an actual practice whereby new citizens learn to test their ideas, opinions and concerns against others. This can only be achieved by having the confidence to think for oneself, being creative, voicing concerns and acquiring the skilled art of listening. Freedom requires the practice of democratic dialogue. This practice is as much about living in a family as it is about living in a community.” (p.74)

Ref: Nick Stevenson (2012) Freedom. Routledge: London and New York

Children’s citizenship


In an article that I found quite thought-provoking, Allison James considers the concept of children’s citizenship. She looks at how it is enacted in local contexts (using two English children’s hospitals as examples). She discusses how the ‘sociology of childhood’ developed since the 1990s has influenced conceptions of citizenship (particular children’s).

The idea of the child is one that changes from one culture to the next. How ‘the child’ is conceived and understood, though, informs the possibilities open to children in terms of agency. Policy (ostensibly designed to ‘protect’ children) constrains and restricts them; citizenship, as it is lived by children, is limited.

A large part of this restriction stems from the way children are understood/defined in terms of their ‘non’-adulthood – the way they are defined in terms of what they are not (adults).

James asserts that “…exploring the ways that the identity of ‘child’ is practiced is core to understanding the cultural politics of children’s citizenship. It is out of the conceptual differences in indentity, between children and adults (Jenks 1996), that the very problem of children’s status as citizens arises.”” (168)

“Marshall envisaged children only as ‘becomings’, rather than ‘beings’; this view is consistent with the idea that it is children’s lack of social competence that separates thier citizenship status from that of adults.” (169)

“Lister (2007) … shows that in social investment states, such as England, Canada and those in the European Union, children’s citizenship is problematic, since a number of the basic building blocks of citizenship are ambiguous when they are applied to children.” (170)

“In societies where children are largely judged in terms of the future adults they will become, their citizenship status as full participants in society is often heavily circumscribed. This is because… such understandings assume that ‘competency’ is something that is acquired the closer one is to becoming ‘adult’. This means, in effect, that ‘competency’ is necessarily (and only) an adult characteristic, i.e. one that children cannot possess’ (Uprichard, 305)” (171) 

What James writes here is relevant to a number of textx/genres, but I couldn’t help thinking of its relevance to children’s spy fiction (Ally Carter, etc.)

Ref: Allison James (2011) ‘To be(come) or not to be(come): Understanding children’s citizenship’ The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 633, January: 167-179

Referring to:

Jenks, Chris (1996) Childhood. London: Routledge

Lister, Ruth (2007) Why citizenship: where, when and how children? Theoretical Inquiries in Law 8(2): 693-718

Marshall, TH (1950) Citizenship and social change. London: Pluto

Uprichard, Emma (2007) Children as ‘being and becomings’: Children, childhood and temporality. Children and Society 22: 303-13

Other references that looked interesting include:

Archard, David. 1993. Children: Rights and childhood. London: Routledge.

Birch, Joanna, Penny Curtis, and Allison James. 2007. In search of the child-friendly hospital. Built Environment 33 (4): 405–16.

Boyden, Jo. 1997. Childhood and the policy makers: A comparative perspective on the globalization of childhood. In Constructing and reconstructing childhood: Contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood, 2nd ed., eds. Allison James and Alan Prout. London: Falmer.

Cockburn, Tom. 1998. Children and citizenship in Britain. Childhood 5 (1): 99–117.

Hart, Roger. 2009. Charting change in the participatory settings of childhood. In Children, politics and communication, ed. Nigel Thomas. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

James, Allison, Penny Curtis, and Joanna Birch. 2008. Care and control in the construction of children’s citizenship. In Children and citizenship, eds. Jane Williams and Anatola Invernizzi. London: Sage.

James, Allison, and Adrian L. James. 2004. Constructing childhood: Theory, policy and social practice. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

James, Allison, and Alan Prout (eds) (1997) Constructing and reconstructing childhood: Contmemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood. 2nd ed. London: Falmer

James, Allison and Adrian L James (2008) European Childhoods: Cultures, politics and childhoods in Europe. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave

Jans, Marc (2004) Children as citizens: towards a contemporary notion of child participation. Childhood 11(1): 27-44

Kjørholt, Anne Trine. 2002. Small is powerful: Discourses on “children and participation” in Norway. Childhood 9 (1): 63–82.

Lee, Nick. 2001. Childhood and society: Growing up in an age of uncertainty. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Qvortrup, Jens. 1994. Childhood matters: An introduction. In Childhood matters, eds. Jens Qvortrup, Marjatta Bardy, Giovanni Sgritta, and Helmut Wintersberger. Aldershot, UK: Avebury.

Roche, Jeremy. 1999. Children: Rights, participation and citizenship. Childhood 6 (4): 475–93.

Spyrou, Spyros. 2008. Education and the cultural politics of childhood in Cyprus. In European childhoods: Culture, politics and childhoods in Europe, eds. Allison James and Adrian L. James. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave.

Such, Elizabeth, and Robert Walker. 2005. Young citizens or policy objects. Journal of Social Policy 34 (1): 39–57.

Woodhead, Martin. 1997. Psychology and the cultural construction of children’s needs. In Constructingand reconstructing childhood: Contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood, 2nd ed., eds. Allison James and Alan Prout. London: Falmer.

Wyness, Michael. 2006. Childhood and society: An introduction to the sociology of childhood. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Family in the Gallagher Girls series


One last thought before I move on… family… how is this portrayed in the Gallagher Girls series? Cammie is a single child – though her best friends at the Academy make up for that (p.178) – and her school and home life are totally mixed together, with her mother as her headmistress, her aunt as a highly successful spy (graduated from her school), then a teacher at her school… her father is missing, perhaps (then definitely) dead… grandparents are mentioned periodically… family relationships are returned to time and again… but to what effect? How is this enjoyed by the reader? what does it offer us?

Consider this moment…

“For reasons that had nothing to do with my mother’s cooking ability (or lack thereof), I totally wasn’t looking forward to Sunday night. / Sure, we have a lot of traditions at the Gallagher Academy, and Sunday night dinners alone with my mum in her office were usually one of my favourites. I didn’t wear my uniform. She didn’t talk about the school. We weren’t headmistress and student on those nights. We were mother and daughter.” (245)

Why set the scene like this? Why enter this aspect of the life of a spy? (even if she is a teenage spy…)

[Actually, this whole chapter is a good example of what I’m talking about…]

Then, again, later, when the girls uncover more truths about their school and its founder (the senator’s daughter, Macey’s ancestor): “‘So Gilly’s family…’ Macey started, but trailed off. / ‘Disapproved?’ Liz guessed. Then she nodded. ‘Totally.’ / ‘Awesome’ Macey looked like she’d never been more proud to have Gilly’s blood in her veins.” (268).

There are two points to consider here: 1) Macey celebrates the rejection of the young spy Gilly by her stuffy old, stagnant family (something Macey no doubt feels a kinship with) and 2) lineage is important in this series: girls inherit their connections with the super-secret school for spies (the villains in the series do the same thing). The blood in your veins determines the education you will receive and the politics you will espouse… (see also p.263, 321-322) …Hmmmm… and then some of the characters are significant for their rejection of exactly that?!

Ref: Ally Carter (2012) Out of Sight, Out of Time. Orchard: London, Sydney

Boys, boy spies, boyfriends, boys at school… boys, boys, Boys?


Of course, boys are a preoccupation at Gallagher Girls’ Academy and it fits perfectly with the story, the setting, the characters, the everything, but… how are boys portrayed in this series? Is this a question worth asking? How does the portrayal of boys in this series offset the portrayal of girls?

What types of male are represented in this series? There are the boyfriends, of course, and the boys from Blackthorne, and the local boys… there are the male teachers, there are fathers – and there are lost fathers,… there are male spies/agents… senators and ambassadors…


This one caught my eye: “There’s something about Preston Winters. He has a sort of self-deprecating manner that all really hot nerds are either born with or acquire over time.” (190)

This is a character-type we could return to when considering Cammie’s friend Liz – and all her friends, in some ways, since they seem to draw on many stereotype traditions from American movies and TV programs about American high school… (note though, by raising the spectre of stereotypes, I don’t mean to belittle this series – I think it’s very clever and, as I’ve said, witty). What parts of the stereotypes are perpetuated? And what parts are challenged?

Fighting and alpha males

Of course, the girls do plenty of fighting in this series, too, but, again, this scene caught my eye:

“Zach was the first to react. In a flash, he was turning to me, yelling, ‘Run!’ / He didn’t know that the man in the alley was Agent Townsend. He didn’t care that Agent Townsend was heading straight for him. / ‘Zach, no!’ I yelled, the jumped between the two of them. ‘Stop!’ I cried, but Zach was already grabbing me around the waist and setting me in what he thought was a safer position. / ‘Ms. Morgan,’ Townsend snapped. ‘Go!’ / ‘You’re both telling me to run!’ I screamed while Preston peeked out from behind the door to watch two highly trained fighters in their prime behave like a couple of idiots. / I don’t want to think about how long it might have lasted if it hadn’t been for the whistle. High and loud, it pierced the air and reverberated in the narrow space for what felt like forever. / Everyone turned and looked through the early morning haze at Bex, who said, ‘If you boys want to beat [-p.192] each other’s guts out, I’m willing to let you, but I’d rather get Cam somewhere safe and find out what she’s doing walking the streets at five in the bloody morning.’ She started back down the alley, then stopped and added, ‘Oh and Zach, if you’re going to run away from school, leave a note. Even Cam did that.'” (191-192) … actually this thread continues on p197:

“Zach huffed but smiled. ‘So you’re Townsend.’ / The two of them stared for a long time, wordless. It felt a little like I was watching a documentary on the Nature Channel, something about alpha males in the wild. I didn’t have a clue how it was going to end until Townsend nodded and took a deep breath. / ‘I suppose you should hear it from me that I have met your mother.’ He smiled a little sadly. ‘Well…when I say met, I mean one time I tried to kill her.’ / There was a charge in the air. Maybe it was the plush carpet beneath our feet, but I could have sworn I felt a spark. / ‘Do me a favour.’Zach’s voice was low and dark and dangerous. ‘Next time, don’t just try.’ / Townsend smiled, and for a moment the two of them looked like long-lost friends. ‘Boys,’ Bex said, dropping into the chair at the head of the table. Abby rolled her eyes. ‘Exactly.'” (197)

Hmmm… what does it take to ‘be an alpha male’? How do such males fit into this series?

And what differentiates boys from men in the series? Consider: “It takes a lot to make people who know fourteen different languages speechless, but that did it. / When Zach said, ‘I’m going to kill Dr Steve,’ it wasn’t the angered threat of a worried boy; it was the calm, cool statement of an operative trained to do exactly that. And that, I think, is why it scared me.” (313)

Gallagher Girls

Obviously, drawing attention to the way boys are portrayed also draws attention to the girls. This is, to be fair, something that the narrator herself draws attention to when she states: “As Buckingham talked, I couldn’t help but remember that there’s a reason they call us Gallagher Girls. It’s not just because the youngest of us are twelve. It’s also because our founder was under twenty. From the very beginning we have been discounted and discredited, underestimated and undervalued. And, for the most part, we wouldn’t have it any other way.” (263)

Is this saying something about what the Gallagher Girls are and are not?

Actually, pp252-253 make this connection between boys and secret spy missions a bit more open. (It seems to be a connection the author is playing with!) Cammie realises that the report she had written after her first boyfriend was actually responsible for setting all the other events in motion. Something in that report (which covers the moment she ‘discovered boys’) tipped off the Circle that she was valuable and they started trying to capture her…

Ref: Ally Carter (2012) Out of Sight, Out of Time. Orchard: London, Sydney

How to think about fear


“A lot of people think that being a Gallagher Girl means not being afraid of anything. Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not about ignoring fear. It’s about facing it, knowing the risks and the costs and sacrificing safety and security anyway. I’d seen my aunt Abby jump in front of a bullet once, and yet in that moment she was terrified. I didn’t want to know what I looked like.” (241)

Does this series have a stance on fear? safety? risk? the costs of safety and security?

Ref: Ally Carter (2012) Out of Sight, Out of Time. Orchard: London, Sydney