Ally Carter is one of the few authors I read who is still alive, and one of the few teen fiction authors I read willingly. Compared to some of the more questionable children's books I've seen, many of her works could actually sit among children's fiction and not teen fiction.
Carter is amazing. She is inventive, convincing, and has a fun style. At times her style feels a bit detached, and as a reader who loves to see extensive character development, occasionally I was disappointed. However, in her most recent additions to both her series(es?) she has proved that she can pull in some major character development and actually make the reader see and feel the pain.
In her Gallagher Girls series, she gives us a very interesting portrait of a private school which trains girls to be spies. The picture she describes sounds so realistic it's hard not to believe it. In her Heist Society series, she takes the opposite approach: that of professional thieves. They too are so convincing that sometimes I wonder if it's real or not.
Why, then, are her writings considered teen fiction? Generally this is because of some awkward scenes that show up now and then. Take the scene when character Z (a boy) sneaks into character C's bedroom in the middle of the night (C is a girl). The intent is innocent. He simply needs to warn her about something and had no way of contacting her. Still, the scene is set up so that it's extremely awkward. I do have to credit Carter with this much: the scenes which do put her writings in teen fiction are, for the most part, simply awkward and are clearly so, going no farther than awkwardness.
However, moving to the Heist Society books, things get a little more awkward than girl and boy characters running into each other in strange places. I take that back. That's pretty much the nature of the awkwardness in Heist Society as well, only these go a little further. Take the boy in his pajamas with no shirt on, or the awkward kiss that is thought about just a little too much, or the time when two characters end up spending an entire day in a closet while they are undercover. Did I mention that they were dating, are now going through a rough time, but both want to make up?
Aside from the awkwardness, we do have to take into account that the Heist Society characters are portrayed as the good guys even though they are only glorified thieves who have a tendency to come off as being "good" since they have decided to only steal from those who do not own what they have.
As for Gallagher Girls, we can't forget that these girls are trained as spies and agents. They also come into contact with a very dangerous group of people called the Circle of Seven and a school of boys who are trained to be assassins (luckily the one who does stick around is trying desperately to escape his past).
Let's put it this way: I hand the Gallagher Girls books to my sister of 13 without questioning it. She knows what's wrong in them and the wrong is never far enough that I'm worried. And while I'm willing to recommend Heist Society books to my friends, and my sister in the future, I have not yet handed them over to her.
Overall, Carter writes some relatively clean teen fiction. The worlds she draws up are impressive and totally believable. The adventures are fun and often have a light carefree feel about them, but she also knows how to write something a little deeper and more sensitive.
She's a fun read, and I eagerly await the next instalments to both her book series(es?).