Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter – Review


Author: Ally Carter

Publisher: Scholastic

Publication date: March 27, 2018

Pages: 297

Price: $22.00 CAD (hardcover) at Indigo Books & Music Online


Maddie thought she and Logan would be friends forever. But when your dad is a Secret Service agent and your best friend is the president’s son, sometimes life has other plans. Before she knows it, Maddie’s dad is dragging her to a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.

No phone.
No Internet.
And not a single word from Logan.

Maddie tells herself it’s okay. After all, she’s the most popular girl for twenty miles in any direction. (She’s also the only girl for twenty miles in any direction.) She has wood to cut and weapons to bedazzle. Her life is full.
Until Logan shows up six years later . . .
And Maddie wants to kill him.

But before that can happen, an assailant appears out of nowhere, knocking Maddie off a cliff and dragging Logan to some unknown fate. Maddie knows she could turn back- and get help. But the weather is turning and the terrain will only get more treacherous, the animals more deadly.

Maddie still really wants to kill Logan.
But she has to save him first.

– Goodreads

First Sentence

“Madeline Rose Manchester had absolutely no intention of invading the White House.”


I’m not trying to come off as rude or disrespectful to the author of this novel. I am no professional book reviewer and I am only stating MY opinion on this novel. This review also contains pretty much a whole summary of the novel so if you are interested in reading Not if I Save You First, I suggest you don’t read this review!


This was a really interesting read for me because, truth be told, I could hardly stand to finish it. I usually start off my reviews with what I enjoyed from the novel, what I liked less, and then to conclude, how I see that novel resembles other novels I’ve read and a restatement of what I enjoyed. Sadly, for this novel, I don’t really think I enjoyed any of it. In fact, I sorta regret picking it up at all.

I am aware that Not if I Save You First is a middle grade novel, so a little different from my usual read but putting these messages out to its younger readers is what I thought was really stupid. Let me explain: (Get ready for a rant)

So basically, this novel is this super drama packed novel about the president’s son and some daughter whose dad is part of the secret service. Which is cool, I guess. I still have no idea how I managed to pick this book up but here we are and to be truthfully honest here, there is a lot of silly business going on with this novel.

When Maddie is ten, she’s just chilling with the president’s son one fine evening at the White House, but all the sudden the First Lady gets abducted by some Russian terrorists! (wOw! YiKeS!) Long story short, Maddie’s dad shows up to save the First Lady but he gets shot by some Russian dude so he has to go to the hospital but Russian dude #2 some super threatening message that leads the secret service dad to resign from his job and pack up his daughter to live with him alone in Alaska. I thought this was really weird because yeah, I know the Russians have it for ya pops but maybe living in seclusion in Alaska of all places with your ten-year old daughter might not be the best idea. I mean I just finished reading Looking For JJ and Jennifer had no trouble creating a new identity and moving a city away without being located, but Mr. Manchester obviously has to play extremes and stay as far as he can from the Russian terrorists (who are literally in jail right now! like wth!) I don’t know, I, myself have never been in this sort of situation but I feel like Maddie’s could have calmed down a bit and found himself a nice, fairly secluded house in Maine or something instead of freaking Alaska! Not to mention the toll that will have on Maddie! Being in complete isolation for (get this) SIX YEARS! That’s right, they stay is Alaska for six years! Man! Imagine how much reading I’d get done out there! But not only have they been on their little camping trip for six years, the dad is constantly taking off in his plane to work? We actually have n idea where he goes but Maddie is constantly lamenting about her dad leaving… so not only does he bring his daughter to a remote location, he leaves her there, completely alone, to fend for herself? She’s a kid!

That’s right, Maddie’s only a kid, but the past six years she’s become this “Alaskan Tarzan,” she knows all there is to know, has her daily chore routines, chops up wood with a big axe and stuff. The whole deal! Until one day, her dad is home and he tells her “The President and The First Lady are sending us a surprise.” like okay, Mr dad. Care to elaborate? But too late! He can’t because at that exact moment the president’s son, Logan, lands in a helicopter in their front yard! (It’s been a six year jump so Maddie is 16 and this guy is 17 and we aren’t that stupid we obviously know whats going to happen here, smh.) But! The past six years the President’s son has been quite the troublemaker! Running away from the secret service and selling stuff online! It’s so crazy but he only does it because he’s convinced his dad doesn’t care about him enough! (sheesh! that is  rough!) The President has had enough of his sons shenanigans and doesn’t want him around to make him “look bad” so he contacts his old retiree pal who used to be head of the Secret Service and asks him if he could keep another child in his little isolated cabin! Leading to Logan just showing up ready to become another “Alaskan Tarzan.” Woo freaking HOoo if novel isn’t weird as heck already.

Maddie is really not happy to see her old pal though. She wrote him a bunch of letters the past six years and he never sent any back! She gets angry and storms off to her makeshift room in the one bedroom cabin but all the sudden her dad gets a call that he needs to fly out for this job that we still know absolutely nothing about! He leaves the next morning in a hurry but while he says goodbye to Maddie, she realizes she’ll be left all alone with Logan! (wow! omg!) So basically, her dad is leaving his teenage daughter with a teenage boy for 48 hours in a cabin that has two rooms. Alone, unsupervised, and with only one way to contact the outside works (a radio that conveniently does not work when they need it the most) Not a parent myself but this is some pro-parenting right here! This is a completely reasonable way of thinking Mr Manchester! Nothing will happen at all! Anyway, later that morning starts off with her daily chores and Logan comes along, but all the sudden – in the middle of the seclude woods of Alaska – some Russian guy pulls up and beats Maddie up so he can kidnap Logan! The Russian conveniently pushes her off a cliff that just magically showed up into this scene and Maddie falls 50+ feet off the cliff! But get this: – she’s still alive.- In fact, this fifty + feet fall only gashed her head and fractured a rib. Logan thinks she’s dead because she’s unresponsive at first and the super athletically fit Russian man drags shocked Logan off into the woods. When Maddie wakes, she decided to play secret service agent herself and follows the path so save Logan.

I’m going to stop summarizing the story here in case you are genuinely interested in reading this story. So I’ll just get straight to my initial thoughts: I hated this novel.

Not only is Maddie portrayed as this indestructible girl who not only, fell down a fifty + feet drop, got shot and get her leg trapped in a hunting trapper, suffered from hypothermia all in the same span of like tree days. She says it’s her days in Alaska that have made her this strong. She has absolutely no training and she is all the sudden the best secret agent in the world because her dad and her grandpa were both agent and she thinks it’s hereditary. But genetics don’t go that far sweetie so explain! She is also always the one who comes up with the ideas, she’s always the one fighting the Russians (cause more of them show up later too) and she saves her freaking dad for Pete’s sake! Her dad, the former head of the secret service! She’s sixteen, she’s untrained, and she’s been in complete seclusion for the past six years! I think this was completely unrealistic and very unpleasant to read. Also, after all this happens, her dad was shot so he has to be in the hospital for weeks and needs to get rehabilitated or whatever the heck but Maddie, who has been trough much worse, is out of the hospital within a week. Out of the hospital and ready to party as soon as she steps in there. Please, tell me, how the heck is this realistic?  She was hurt in different ways like NINE times throughout a span of like three days and that’s excluding al the shock and hunger her body went through. HOW is this taken seriously!

Ugh, another aspect I absolutely detested was the constant freaking gender stereotyping. I mean this is a middle grade novel and putting this is books meant for younger readers who are still learning about how to deal with their emotions and discovering their personalities is so not cool. For example, Logan “wasn’t allowed to cry because he wanted to look like a man in front of Maddie.” Dude, if you want to cry, just cry! This should not be in a novel for younger readers. Saying that crying “isn’t manly” my god! Not only that, Maddie was also supposed to like all things glittery and pink because she was a girl. That she was all weak and useless because she was a girl. There were also times where she was like: ” Alaska has made me different from all the other girls, I’m not absorbed to my phone and constantly talking about boys and going shopping!” I don’ have the exact quote but she straight up said something of the sorts! Like newsflash! I don’t live in Alaska but I don’t talk about boys 24/7 and I actually have a personality. I’m also perfectly comfortable with doing dirty work, I remember here was a quote that implied that she wasn’t scared of getting her “manicure full of dirt like most girls would,” like HELLO THERE MADDIE I don’t know if it’s because of these six years of isolation but not all girls are like that and even if they are, who are YOU to judge? Maybe someone doesn’t like getting their hands dirty, it dosen’t make you superior to them. I like the color pink and I have a job at a barn. I don’t need to be just girly girl or just tomboy. I really hated how this was said many times in the novel and I think that these are toxic traits that should not be explored in a middle grade novel of all things! Also, this novel was published in 2018… WHAT!? Has the development of today’s society taught you nothing? Gender norms are out! If you want to cry! You cry! If you are a girl, you can choose to be “girly” if you want and should not get shit for it, same goes for if you don’t want to be a “girly” girl because that is okay too! SHEESH!

Over all, this was just too much for me. The whole president thing was already too far-fetched but then there were the Russians terrorist (oh, another stereotype right there!) AND the whole Alaska life. Add all that to the completely idiotic gender norms and it was TOO MUCH! I read this during a snow day and it took up the whole day but I totally could have spent it reading something else that I would of enjoyed more! I actually almost added this to my Did Not Finish List which I have never done before! The cheeziness was unbearable. I’m trying to think of saying something I liked to finish this off but I really got noting, guys….

Final Review/Recommendation


Yikes! I personally did not enjoy Not if I save You First. Well, I enjoyed that it was short and only a day’s read. Keep in mind though that this was simply my opinion! You might really enjoy it, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea! I mean no offense to the author with my review because I know how hard it is to get negative criticism on your hard work but I just want to be completely honest on here. I know I might be a little to harsh on this book since I believe it is actually intended for younger readers, but there were some things, like the stereotypes, that I thought were very inappropriate for this novel. I know that Ally Carter has other books that people seemed to really enjoy so I might give those a chance later on.

I’d recommend this novel to a younger reader who would not let the stereotypes get to their heads because without the stereotypes, this novel could be very entertaining for a younger reader. I know that if I were reading this at eleven years old I would of probably  really enjoyed it because I would probably be oblivious to all of this novels inaccuracy. This book would also be good for someone who likes a quick read because it really doesn’t take long to read and it’s action-packed with a lot of plot twists! I truly think that some people could come to enjoy this novel but it just was not my thing!IMG_0765.jpg

Pretty cover though, I’ll give it that!

I’d love to hear what you thought of this novel or of my review! Feel free to let me know!

Have a great day!

-Emma 🙂