Heist Society #1. Author: Ally Carter.
When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…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 Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. 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 history–and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.
Here’s a new twist on the cocky thief archetype + story: Kat is a “reformed” (ish) thief. She wants out of the family business. She walked away from that life, into a new one she created out of thin air with her unusual talents, at a prestigious and totally upright boarding school.
But as the story begins, Kat is being dragged right back in. It’s not her fault that her friend, Hale, got her kicked out of boarding school. She could still refuse the job he came to get her for, of course… but not really. It’s her father’s life on the line this time, if she can’t return the paintings a dangerous mobster accuses him of stealing, and it’s not really stealing if you’re stealing them back, right?
It’s all a bit over the top and dramatic. Much like most spy-movies, I’d guess. But I’ve always had a weakness for the thief archetype, and Kat’s teen crew is basically six different variations of that character all thrown in one room. How could I resist? And it’s all in great fun – like the ever more ridiculous heist-plan names they run through, trying to figure out the break-in. Each one goes unexplained, given only a throw away remark: “What about Mary Poppins?” “Do you have a way of making it rain before Tuesday?” Of course, there’s a totally unnecessary romance-y side plot. The one other main problem I have with Heist Society is the villain. We’re told again and again by various characters that he is “actually evil”, as opposed to the art thief MCs. But although he makes vague and ominous threats about Kat’s father, he never does anything! He’s just a brooding presence in the background throughout the story. In fact, Kat interacts with him multiple times, on the street, in his car (!), in his stronghold itself, and never gets in trouble. That’s no way to treat a mobster, you know.
The crew members aren’t the most fleshed out and realistic characters I’ve ever met, but despite that I really like them: they’re perfectly believable as siblings, both Blood Family and Family Found, two great and underused elements in the same story. There’s Hale, the dashing millionaire (a little too handsomely dashing for a teenager, but we can’t all be perfect) unrelated to the family, who first met Kat the night he caught her stealing the family Monet. There’s the twins, banned from family heists for the moment because they stole from a nun (“We didn’t know, really and truly!”) because conning an honest man/woman just isn’t done. Gabrielle, who can crawl through a hundred feet of vents and come out looking perfect. Kat doesn’t like her, but maybe that’ll change in the next book, because these two girls should totally be best friends. And by the end of the story we have Nick the newbie, who bumped into Kat on the street: quite literally, when he stole her wallet, and she returned the favor and met him at his hotel room to demand hers back.
It’s silly, fast-paced fun. Perfect for anyone else who loves the thief archetype too.
Sexual Content: The guards were “too busy watching her long legs to see where they were headed to”, girl in short skirt distracting them. “Kat thought it was too bad her head hadn’t filled out as much as her breasts” describing a character. Girl bursts in on a boy in bed and he says “You know, I could be naked in here” (he’s not). Girl comes down in a short skirt + tighter shirt as distraction/disguise for a job, and there’s a brief interlude where all the boys exclaim about how “she has legs!” “And boobs”.
Violence: Girl non-fatally electrocutes herself testing a security system. Characters deliberately set a (small) fire; nobody’s hurt, although some of their own crew are nearly suffocated.