Heist Society by Ally Carter
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: February 9, 2010
Pages: 304 pages
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Katarina Bishop belongs to a close-knit extended family whose members have been international art thieves for generations. Her mother brought her father into the business when she married him, and Kat's dad developed a brilliant flare for art theft. Kat, too, has the family gift in spades--she has been trained by her parents since she was three years old to participate in heists, doing them with both her parents until her mother's death a few years ago, and after that in conjunction with her father and other family members.
When Kat was 13 years old, she met 14-year-old W.W. Hale the fifth when he interrupted her while she was attempting to steal his grandmother's Monet in his family's enormous mansion. Much like's Kat's father's romance with her mother, Hale's instant attraction to Kat, and his willingness to, quite literally, follow her to the ends of the earth, pulled Hale into Kat's family business. Over the previous two years, Hale has become nearly as adept at art theft as Kat, but during the past few months, though Hale has remained an art thief, Kat has attempted to retire for her own survival.
She has decided that if she does not imprison herself willingly in a boarding school, sooner or later she will inevitably become an unwillingly inhabitant of an actual prison. Fabricating the records required to get herself accepted into the school was to have been her final con. Unfortunately, Hale's means of informing her that her father is in big trouble, which only Kat can rescue him from, is to pull off an outrageous prank that gets her expelled, leaving her no recourse but to abandon her boarding-school plan.
I am not normally a fan of stories about thieves, no matter how charming, unless they are trying to go straight (To Catch A Thief and The Town), stealing back something that is theirs (How to Steal a Million), trying to right a wrong by stopping a heist (Die Hard), or stealing back something that has been stolen by others and returning it to the rightful owners (the upcoming 2013-release movie, The Monuments Men, written, directed and starred in by George Clooney).
This book falls into one of those categories, but it would be a spoiler to say which one, because we don't know that information until the very end of the book.
It is a tribute to the amazing writing of Ally Carter that she pulled me into this story without my knowing for sure that it portrays a laudable type of heist. I did, however, suspect that might be the case because, as a rule, YA novels tend to avoid protagonists who are unrepentant criminals.
Kat Bishop is an ideal heroine. She is smart, talented, loyal to those she loves--and unwilling, no matter how much the odds are stacked against her, to give up when the going gets rough.
The subcharacters in this book are outstanding, too, especially Hale. He is a terrific romantic interest, though the romance is, sadly for those of us who enjoy romance as the A-Plot of a teen novel, only a relatively minor focus of the plot. The main emphasis is on a presumably impossible heist that Kat has to pull off within a very tight time limit in order to save her father's life.
Parental guidance: Other than the dubious morality of Kat's relations as thieves, there is no sex, no drinking or drugs, no swearing, and no overt violence.
I rate this book as follows:
Heist Plot: 5
Romantic subplot: 4