Get Yer YA Out: Heist Society

I read young adult books for a number of reasons. The best YA books match adult books in quality of writing and engaging stories. I’m very busy, and most of the time I’m trying to read a book while doing a ton of other stuff. YA books are often a little bit shorter and easier to read, so I can have a satisfying reading experience without investing a ton of time in a book. With the insane popularity of Harry Potter and Twilight it isn’t unusual for adults to read YA books anymore. In Get Yer YA Out I’ll explore young adult books with adult appeal.

Heist Society by Ally Carter

What if the gang from Ocean’s Eleven was all grown up and had children of their own? And what if their teenage kids grew up being trained since childhood with all the skills they needed to pick pockets, run a con, and steal priceless art?

Kat has decided to try being a normal kid for a change. She’s left a life of jet-setting thievery behind and taken refuge in the stuffy Colgan boarding school. The novel opens with Kat facing disciplinary action for the MIT-like prank of placing the headmaster’s car on top of the school’s fountain. There’s only one problem – Kat didn’t do it. Faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Kat is kicked out of school. As she heads out of the school gates a limo pulls up beside her. She climbs in and greets her not-boyfriend W.W. Hale the Fifth.

Hale reveals that he got Kat kicked out of school because her father is suspected of stealing priceless paintings from an Italian mobster. Despite the fact that her father has an alibi of sorts (he was stealing something else in Paris at the time), Arturo Taccone tells Kat that if she doesn’t get his paintings back her friends and family will suffer. Kat decides she will steal the paintings to save her dad even if she doesn’t know who the real thief is. What follows is a globe-trotting adventure as Kat puts together a teenage crew that includes Hale, her sexually overdeveloped bitchy cousin Gabrielle, the tag-team Bagshaw brothers, and technical whiz Simon.

Even though plenty of stories about international art heists have been written before, Carter makes hers charming by winking at her predecessors. Kat doesn’t know Hale’s first name and is constantly trying to figure it out. Kat attempts to tail her father in Paris, and he ends up using her to create a diversion for the Interpol agents who are also following him. Kat’s gang has a shared past which is referred to with the type of shorthand that people develop after telling their stories to each other over and over again. Statements like “I thought the monkey was well-trained” and “We didn’t know she was a nun” evoked past adventures that inspire curiosity in the reader.

Kat is a clever and resourceful heroine, with enough teenage insecurity to inspire sympathy. While she takes the leadership role in performing the heist of a lifetime, she’s still trying to figure out how she feels about being pulled back into her family of thieves and needs to sort out her feelings for Hale.

Carter hints at a larger back story for the characters. What really happened to Kat’s missing mother? How did Hale decide to join Kat? Why does the legendary master thief Uncle Eddie hate Kat’s father so much?

Having all these unexplored plot points makes me look forward to a sequel. Heist Society is just fun to read even if it isn’t particularly deep. I wasn’t surprised to discover that Heist Society has been optioned as a movie. Shauna Cross, who wrote Whip It, is adapting the book. In some ways the book does resemble a proto-screenplay, with plenty of action and humor that I hope will translate well to the movie screen. It makes me wish that a world existed where teenagers with multiple passports really could invade a museum after traveling from New York to Vegas to Paris to Vienna to London in the space of a week.

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