Monday, May 9, 2011

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Title: Heist Society
Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney Book Group
Release Date: February 9th, 2010
Pages: 304 pages
How I Got the Book: Bought it for my Kindle

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's art collection has been stolen, and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.
For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s (very crooked) history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.


Katarina Bishop is from a family of famous thieves, but she chose to leave that life behind and con her way into the Colgan School. After her best friend Hale frames her for a prank at the school and gets her expelled, she learns that her father is suspected of stealing five paintings from one very mean mobster. If she can't find the paintings and return them in two weeks, her dad is done for. But her father didn't do it; one of the greatest thieves in the world did, and that great thief hid them in a museum. Together with her teenage crew of thieves, Kat plans to break into one of the most secure museums in the world and steal those five paintings back.

I may not seem it, but I'm a big fan of tales of thievery. I grew up watching my brother play the Sly Cooper video games (God, I miss those games), I'm a fan of the Ocean's movies starring George Clooney through my mother's influence, and my favorite character in a show I've followed for seven years and got up at five in the morning to watch as a fifth-grader is a thief. (In fact, I am going to watch the fourteenth of that series's fifteen movies after I finish this review because it includes that thief character.) I hadn't heard of Heist Society, a tale with a female thief as the lead, until very recently and I decided that I must read it. I did, and I enjoyed myself just as I expected to--maybe even a little more than I expected to.

The writing style was the strongest point of the book. The narration, recording the events as if it were a documentary of an infamous crime from long ago, was often humorous and played out perfectly in my head like a movie. This book would be perfect to adapt into a screenplay, not to mention make a great movie, and it looks like someone already realized this. From what I've read, the book has been optioned for a film (though its characters' ages would be changed from teens to their twenties, and this makes me incredibly sad and maybe a little angry). Carter made this book exciting and difficult for me to put down. I can't believe it took me so long to read the book!

In a sea of books where family means almost nothing to the main character, the importance of families both blood-related and not to Kat and everyone else in her group was refreshing. How often do you see a child care enough about their parent to put them in jail for their own safety? Even when she gave up being a thief and her family felt betrayed by her choice, her crew was still unerringly loyal to her and listened to her even when they thought her plans were insane and would never work. If only everyday people could be so loyal to one another in real life!

The major players like Kat and Hale (to an extent) get their development, but supporting characters like Gabrielle and Simon could be summed up in about one clean sentence. The reader knows that Visily Romani stole the paintings and put them in the museum, but Romani's true identity is never resolved. Maybe the sequel Uncommon Criminals might be kind enough to resolve this? That one loose end is still bugging me in a story that otherwise tied up everything neatly.

This book is a nominee for the 2011-2012 Florida Teens Read award, whose past winners include Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Sadly, I don't expect Heist Society to win the award, considering other nominees, the fact that the award is chosen by votes from Florida students, and current trends in young adult literature. Regardless, it deserves its nomination and I hope it can be a surprise winner. Check this book out for a fun caper and take a look at some of the other Florida Teens Read nominees through that link--I discovered my favorite author and book (E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks) because it was one of the nominees.

4 stars!

 What am I reading next?: Wherever You Go by Heather Davis