Book Reviews

Uncommon Criminals – Ally Carter

Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life: Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long — and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous, and that is . . . the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all, she has her best friend — the gorgeous Hale — and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses and realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.

Discovery: I picked up “Heist Society” a few months ago, on the recommendation of my best friend, and don’t regret it one bit. Carter’s Gallagher Girls series was a captivating introduction to the intricate workings of this author’s mind.

+     Details. The Gallagher Girls and Heist Society novels have one thing in common: the careful plotting and detail make it very easy to believe that the author was a former spy/thief. From the complex tests that Cammie Morgan solves as a Gallagher Girl spy to the hundreds of strategies that Kat Morgan employs in her heists, it’s clear that Ally Carter is a force to be reckoned with. Of particular interest are the names of those strategies: the Alice in Wonderland, Florence Nightingale, etc. Carter expects her readers to follow along at a breakneck pace, or if not, to have the initiative to do research.

+     Smart inner/outer dialogue. Carter writes in a third-person point-of-view, which means that Kat is the reader’s only peephole into the world. Thankfully, Kat is a balanced narrator, walking a secure tightrope between her own hidden insecurities and the confident demeanor she’s learned to project. Her crew members are whip-smart and have senses of humour just as sharp. It’s simply fun to ride along with these characters.

–     The adults, or lack of. YA fiction is defined by its focus on the teenage characters, so I’m not saying that the book would have been better if led by the adults. Heist Society was made more interesting by the crackling relationship Kat and her uncle Eddie share. The reader is sure that they both respect each other, but neither are we quite sure that they see the truth about each other. In this novel, the reader is introduced to some new aspects of Kat’s family, but the encounters are so quick that they never really make a firm impression. I would have loved to see more of the Bishop family and their quirks.

–     Hale. Without giving away any spoilers, I will say that Hale has changed. Of course, I have considered that this is the second of possibly a few books, so maybe Hale is suffering from a sophomore slump. It was just strange to see him acting so unlike his Heist Society self. He serves as Kat’s foil, but that position seemed weakened in this novel.

Recommendations: Truly, it surprises me that a series like this hasn’t been done before, but I’m so glad that Ally Carter took on the challenge. A lot of cultural references may dissuade younger readers, but if a reader is willing to hang on tight, the Heist Society novels offer better rewards than a cursed emerald.

Rating: Excellent.

Go check out Ally Carter’s site and follow her on Twitter @OfficiallyAlly.

Next review: Stolen, Lucy Christopher

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Categories: Book Reviews, YA fiction

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