Heist Society by Ally Carter. Disney Hyperion Books. Publication date February 2010. Young Adult. Reviewed from Uncorrected Advance Proof from publisher.
The Plot: Katarina Bishop, 15, ran away to boarding school with the hopes of leaving her family and her past life behind her. Alas, just when she thinks she is out, they pull her back in.
The family business? Stealing. Long and short cons, pick a pocket or two.
A powerful criminal believes that Kat's father, Bobby Bishop, stole his art collection. The only way to save her father? Find the real thief and steal back the collection. Kat is rusty from being out of the game; and it's more than a one person job. She's going to need all the help she can get to pull off this heist.
The Good: What is good? Every. single. page. Likable characters that you want to spend time with, plenty of humor, great action, a wee bit of art history, a variety of exciting locations, strong female characters, and cute guys. What more does a reader want?
You know the crew from Ocean's Eleven? Now imagine that they had kids who are now teenagers; teens raised in the world of cons and stealing. That is Kat's world; the one she tried to leave, because, you know -- stealing. Kat gets dragged back to save her father (when this movie is made, and I cannot believe it's not optioned yet, George Clooney has got to play Bobby Bishop). Kat's resurfacing in this strange world is a brilliant literary choice of the author; because as Kat is reintroduced to her old world, so is the reader introduced. This avoids the sometimes necessary but always awkward infodumps of background information; instead, it's information woven into the story and Kat's story and Kat's return.
Just as you cannot watch the crime capers such as Ocean's Eleven and The Sting and think "but that's ILLEGAL" (cause that type of thinking, friend, ruins the fun) so too can you not think that way about Heist Society. Even if you were going to get all moralistic, Carter gives a story line where the so-called owners of the art are as far from sympathetic and morally correct as you can get.
Kat is smart and knows her stuff, as befits someone raised in a world of thieves. At the same time, she is only fifteen (and she did take some time off). in other words, Kat is hardly perfect or without error. She is no Mary Sue, despite speaking four languages and being able to put together and lead her own crew of teenage thieves, pickpockets, and scammers. She is fun, funny, sometimes wrong, sometimes right.
Heist Society takes place over fourteen days, the amount of time Kat has been given to save her father from the mobster. Each section heading counts down the time remaining (6 Days Until Deadline) and gives the current location (London, England) because of course, there is jumping from country to country as Kat assembles a crew and tracks the art thief who framed her father.
Carter has done such a stellar job at plotting out the various criminal schemes that I wonder if she is secretly in the witness protection program because of her past life as an art thief. Only, I guess, not so secret anymore. Honestly, I want to know what research she did because Heist Society feels very real and accurate; I was guessing the whole way about what would happen next, with just the right mix of wrong and right guesses; I was surprised at times; and I loved the ending. While this book strongly stands alone, I was very happy to read at Carter's blog that there is a sequel in the works.
Fans of Carter's Gallagher Girls book will be thrilled by this new series; and those who aren't fans are only not fans because they have not yet read an Ally Carter book. This is a good place to start.
I did not get the "cat burglar" play on Kat's name until I read the author's blog. Sigh.
A favorite book read in 2010. (see sidebar)
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy