Saturday, February 27, 2016

Heist Society (e-book) by Ally Carter

Heist Society is a YA heist story. I got it via my library's Overdrive collection.

Review:

Heist Society stars Katarina Bishop, a teenage thief who has spent her whole life surrounded by thieves and con artists. Three months prior to the start of the book, Kat enrolled in a boarding school in an effort to go straight. The arrival of W.W. Hale the Fifth derails her plans. Hale tells Kat that someone has stolen several paintings from a very bad man named Arturo Taccone, and Taccone believes that Kat's father was responsible. Kat's father couldn't have done it – he was busy with a completely different theft at the time – but Taccone refuses to believe that and wants his property back. If Kat wants to save her father, she'll have to find the paintings, steal them back, and return them to Taccone.

I've wanted to read this book for quite some time. It sounded fun and fast-paced, and heist stories appeal to me.

The best parts were the heist-planning and the actual heist. Unfortunately, these things took up a smaller percentage of the book than I expected. Also, for someone who had supposedly been trained to be a thief since she was a toddler, Kat made some incredibly stupid decisions and wasn't nearly as good as everyone said she was.

I will say this: if you're looking for a book that's incredibly fast-paced, this one certainly fits the bill. Anything to keep the story moving. For some people, this might be a plus, but I found myself feeling frustrated. Carter never gave readers a chance to slow down and get to know the characters, not even at the beginning – Kat and Hale flitted from one country to another, meeting up with people in order to gather information. There was also an extremely poor sense of place. I'm pretty sure that Kat and Hale visited at least three different countries, but most of the time I couldn't remember where they were.

Kat's crew wasn't really that memorable. There was Hale, whose main contributions were his money and his ability to improvise and speak fluent billionaire. There was Gabrielle, Kat's cousin, who was responsible for distracting as many people as possible with her beauty. Rich and gorgeous Hale was Kat's obvious love interest, so of course Gabrielle was Kat's obvious possible romantic rival. Not that a Gabriel/Hale pairing seemed likely to anybody but Kat.

There was also Simon, a hacker who, when he was first introduced, hadn't struck me as the kind of guy who could handle a complicated and high-pressure theft, and Angus and Hamish, who were basically just there to fill out the crew. Late in the book, Kat recruited another member, Nick, in a spectacular display of bad decision-making.

I'm going to back up for a bit. Throughout most of the book, people made a big deal about Kat's decision to try to go straight. It was seen as a betrayal. Also, three months at boarding school left Kat incredibly out of practice as far as some of the physical aspects of thievery went. I was never quite sure about what Kat's skill level was supposed to have been like prior to boarding school, and how much she'd lost during those three months, but the amount of emphasis on Kat's atrophied skills seemed excessive.

Despite all that, Kat's crew accepted her as their leader pretty quickly. I was surprised but hopeful. Maybe Kat would demonstrate that, no matter how rusty some of her skills were, she could still come up with brilliant plans. Okay, so everyone thought that robbing the museum would be impossible with a crew of only six people, but Kat would figure something out. Right? Wrong. Instead, she recruited Nick, a random guy whose only credentials were his ability to pick Kat's pocket (and get caught by her) and Kat's gut feeling that he was pretty good. The rest of Kat's crew freaked out about this, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, Nick was not only a bad professional decision on Kat's part, he also led to an annoying love triangle that nobody had the time to deal with.

Meh. At least this was a quick read, and the actual heist was kind of fun. It was also a relief that Kat figured out some of her mistakes before they became fatal. I went into this expecting (and hoping for!) fluff, but this particular fluff was even less substantial than I expected it to be. Taccone, the supposedly very bad and dangerous guy, was too easily dealt with. Also, I was a little annoyed that Visily Romani's identity was never revealed. Actually, unless Carter plans on painting herself into a corner, the current Visily had better be a whole crew of people, because otherwise I'd want to know how a single person managed to do several thefts that characters repeatedly said could not be done alone.

Read-alikes:
  • A Girl Named Digit (book) by Annabel Monaghan - This one might work for those looking for another exciting YA story starring a (supposedly) skilled female protagonist. In this one, the main character has the ability to see patterns everywhere and has a brain that functions like a calculator. She sees something she isn't supposed to and gets chased by terrorists. I've written about this book.
  • So Over You (e-book) by Gwen Hayes - Kat sometimes sounded so jaded that it was hard to believe she was only a high school student. I had a similar problem while reading this YA book, and it kept popping into my mind while I was reading Heist Society. Like Kat and Hale, Layney and Jimmy have a bit of history together. I've written about this book.
  • Also Known As (book) by Robin Benway - This one's a YA spy novel instead of a YA heist novel, but it looks like it'd have similar appeal. The main character's parents are also spies so, like Kat, she's never had a chance to be a normal teenager.
  • Six of Crows (book) by Leigh Bardugo - I haven't read this one, but it looks and sounds like it'd be a bit darker than Carter's book. Also, it's YA fantasy. However, it is another YA heist novel, so I'd say give it a shot if that's what you're looking for.

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