Heist Society by Ally Carter, 287 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

Heist Society by Ally Carter, author of the very popular Gallagher Girls series about an elite all-girls academy that only accepts geniuses and trains them to be spies, has a similarly entertainingly improbable premise. Katerina Bishop's parents took her to the Louvre when she was three - to case the joint. When she was seven she and her beloved Uncle Eddie visited Austria - to steal the crown jewels. Kat, who's mother died when she was younger, comes from a long line of professional thieves and, at the age of fifteen, she is quite accomplished herself. However, she yearns for a normal life and that is why, when the book begins, we find her attending the prestigious Colgan Academy, a school she has cleverly tricked her way into. Kat loves the normality of school life, from the cafeteria food to the regularity of classes, but her idyllic experience is short lived when security camera footage shows her committing the prank-to-end-all-pranks. The headmaster's mint-condition 1958 Porsche Speedster is fount atop the fountain in the quad with water shooting out of its headlights one warm November evening and Kat is expelled. Family friend, wannabe thief, heir to billions and fellow teen, WW Hale the Fifth, of the "messy light brown hair and golden skin," is behind it all and waiting in the limo that has been sent to remove Kat from campus. Hale has arranged for Kat to be kicked out because the family needs her back. There is a job that only she can do. A private collection of very high-end paintings has been stolen out of a home with the latest security systems and her dad, Bobby Bishop isn't just on the list, he IS the list. Kat, it seems, is the only person who can clear his name. And it looks like the only way she can do that is to steal back the paintings.

Heist Society is a fantastic book because, while Carter's fast paced plotting, globetrotting and displays of wealth are entertaining and, actually, downright fun, she also manages to work in an compelling plot line regarding art that was stolen by the Nazi's from homes of Jews and gentiles alike during WWII, most of which was never returned to the original owners and has resulted in several court cases. The most recent one that saw the return of Gustav Klimt painting, Litzlberg am Attersee (worth $40 million dollars) to the grandson of Amalie Redlich, a Viennese woman who was deported to Poland where she died in a concentration camp. Not only is Kat pressed into a situation where she has two weeks to deliver the paintings to Arturo Taccone, the ruthless "owner" of the works of art or her loved ones will be taken out, but she also learns from an old family friend and art historian in Poland that these paintings have rightful owners and that their shady provenance requires them to be hidden from the world, depriving all art lovers from enjoying them. Kat, with the aid of Hale's bottomless bank account, hits Las Vegas, Rome, Vienna, Warsaw and Naples, where she almost buys a ridiculously expensive mini-submarine, to assemble her team of teen thieves, snagging a handsome, blue-eyed, British pickpocket while in Paris to add to the bunch. From there they follow the clues that lead to the unlikely place where the thief has stashed the stolen art and find themselves breaking into the most heavily protected museum in England, if not the world. There are twists and turns and the tiniest hint of romance in Heist Society. I rated it "middle school" reading level rather than teen, despite the age of the main characters, because it is so tame and lacking in complexities that might be otherwise lost on yougn readers.There is one scene where Kat, who is petite and tomboyish, dons a school uniform as a disguise, causing the guys on her team to comment on her boobs - the word they use. It's lighthearted and over quickly.

Heist Society is a fast read and a fun read. It is the palette cleanser that we all sometimes need, even kids, after reading heavier books. And, with Heist Society, Carter proves quite nicely that, even when partaking of light fare, you don't have to sacrifice taste.

For those of you who like this kind of info, apparently Drew Barrymore has optioned the book and plans to make a movie based on it someday. She did a great job as producer of Charlie's Angels and as producer and director of Whip It. She clearly has a way with teens and a handle on big productions. If they can really film in all the locations of this book and get a good cast, this should be fantastic. Maybe like a teen version of Oceans 11!

Popular posts from this blog

Fox + Chick: The Sleepover and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Be a Tree! by Maria Gianferrari illustrated by Felicita Sala

Reading Levels: A Quick Guide to Determining if a Book Is Right for Your Reader