Monday, September 13, 2010

Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Fifteen-year-old Katarina Bishop thought she’d walked away from “the life,” but when crime is in your blood, it’s not so easy to leave behind. Kat’s been at Colgan Boarding School for only a few short months when she finds herself unceremoniously expelled for a brilliant prank - a prank she didn’t pull. Whoever framed Kat is good, and they want Kat back in the world of cons. Unfortunately for Kat, a lot has changed during her three month hiatus and now she's left with no choice but to embrace the old family business. Kat finds herself once again caught up in the life she thought she'd left behind, but this job isn’t your typical heist and, for Kat, a lot more is on the line than a few priceless masterpieces – like her father’s life.

Heist Society is a quirky caper with the ingenuity of "Ocean’s Eleven" and the heart of Robin Hood. You may actually find yourself humming the "Mission Impossible" theme as you read (I did). Ally Carter's pacing and exposition are exactly calculated for the world she's trying to create -- one in which uber-rich, soulless businessmen find 15-year-old girls who moonlight as professional thieves charming and amusing, and exclamations like "We all agreed that that monkey seemed perfectly well trained at the time!" are a common occurrence. Carter seems to realize that some things are funnier when taken out of context, especially when you've been pulling heists since you were three and Dad bribed you with ice cream to scream until a Tower of London guard came to investigate. The whole premise is wonderfully outrageous and, really, that’s the point – this is a novel of light-hearted laughs and globe-trotting adventure, a chance for readers to let their imaginations run wild and to embark on the unfathomable, glamorous life of a (talented) teenage con artist.

This story does possess a deeper emotional undertone, though that certainly isn't the focus. Katarina Bishop is an atypical teenage girl in an unconventional family who wants nothing more than to eat in the cafeteria, make some friends who can't pick her pocket, and maybe even go to the prom. Unfortunately for Kat, the Bishop family is rather mafia-esque, full of tradition and honor, and they feel betrayed when she tries to walk away from their life. The narrative is fraught with Kat's internal struggle between family loyalty and a desperate desire for normalcy -- as Kat summarizes, it's "Colgan now or jail later." Kat is not the ubiquitous bland brand of heroine; she's clearly on the far side of the law and yet the reader can't help but root for her and her crew of teen cons to prevail over the somewhat bumbling arm of the law. There's just something irresistible about a clever criminal, and of course it helps that Kat is calm, cool, collected, and a sweetheart to boot. Carter keeps the reader guessing throughout the cunning conclusion, until the final flourish when all the pieces fall spectacularly into place.

Rating: 

Click here to purchase Heist Society by Ally Carter

14 comments:

Blodeuedd said...

Sounds cool :)
Lol, you know it took me ages to see that painting in her glasses, never did notice it

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the in-depth review. I like that you picked up on the book's undertones--without knowing that they were there, I might have passed on this. But it's good to know that there's some depth beyond the butt-kicking!

Casey (The Bookish Type) said...

Blodeuedd - I hadn't noticed that either! Haha, good eye!

Stephanie - I really liked that there was more to it than a free-for-all too! Sure, it's fun to escape from reality like that, but for a book to be truly worthwhile, there needs to be some substance that keeps your mind whirring after you put it down. I'm really glad you found the review informative!

readerbuzz said...

A world away from what I'm reading---Nancy Drew!

Can kids today identify with the characters of Nancy Drew like they do with Heist?

Casey (The Bookish Type) said...

That's a great question! I think little kids might aspire to be a crime solving superhero like Nancy, but teens probably wouldn't be able to identify with her implausible innocent naivety. What do you think?

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

Hmmm...I'm actually kind of surprised this one got such a high rating from you. I was planning on skipping it. Though I might change my mind now....

Thanks for the review! :D

lisa :) said...

Haha - I love that you admitted to singing the Mission Impossible theme! :) And the line about the monkey just might prompt me to read this one...

Casey (The Bookish Type) said...

Natalie - I was pretty surprised too. This is the kind of thing that can easily go awry, but the characters were so great and the adventures so fanciful (a la Percy Jackson) that I got pulled along in the laughter-filled mania =) I hope you like it if you pick it up!

Lisa - Lol it caught me by surprise when I realized that I was humming it in my head! That line made me laugh out loud (as did many others in the book). I hope you enjoy it!

Cari said...

Ahh I loved this book so much!

Diana said...

I like the cover more than the story but after your review I think that I will give it a second chance.

Lexie said...

First off, I love lighthearted comedies and secondly, I adore the Ocean's movies! Sounds like this book has it all! It's definitely a unique story.

Vivien said...

This sounds like a light and fun read. I have a hard time picking those up, an oxymoron.

Syki said...

I didn't read this book but one of my friends yes and she loved it! I saw cover of second book and I fell in love with it :D So when I will have enough time to read... I will choose this one :D

Triss said...

I have heard that this book is so much fun, that I cannot wait to read it.

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