When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre . . . to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria . . . to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own — scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.
Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster’s priceless art collection has been stolen and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled off this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.
For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and, hopefully, just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s (very crooked) history — and with any luck, steal her life back along the way. (from Amazon)
I’ve been putting off writing/posting this review because honestly, I’m a little afraid. I think the general consensus is that this is a great book, with excellent writing and characters and plot. And I happen to disagree. Like, a lot.
I really didn’t like this book. I listened to it as an audiobook and while I’m able to forgive a lot of things because, for some reason, audiobook format makes me feel more kindly towards the book in general, I wasn’t able to forgive Heist Society. It’s not as bad as some other books I’ve read, but it’s certainly somewhere down around the bottom on the scale of How Awesome is This Book.
My problems stem from what I expected and what I actually got. What I was expecting: Ocean’s 11 with kids (kind of like P.U.N.K.S., if you need more pop culture references). What I got: Boring story punctuated with some exciting bits and a little romance, cushioned by bad, juvenile writing.
Do you really want me to go over exactly what I disliked? If I was the sort of person who could write funny-snarky reviews and turn my hatred into humor I’d do that, but as I’m not that sort of person (or writer), I think I’ll just make a list.
What I didn’t like:
1. boring, stereotypical characters. Teenaged femme fatale. Rich kid who for some reason wants to be a thief. Nerdy, socially insecure computer genius. Old master criminal who runs the show and comes from somewhere in Eastern Europe. Villain with undeterminate non-English/American accent.
It’s like Ms Carter went down a checklist of what a heist story needs and made sure to include all of them. And all of them boring because they weren’t anything new and it was honestly like watching a Disney TV movie. Family friendly, safe, and entirely recognizable. Just boring.
2. bad writing. The writing was actually the worst part. I forgave that aspect of the book for the longest time, but when I got two hours to the end I could barely stand it. I called it “juvenile” above because that’s exactly what it sounded like to me– like Ms Carter wrote Heist Society when she was 14 and then didn’t bother to edit it since then.
It’s full of purple prose, character descriptions in place of character names, and just plain weird writing. Multiple times characters were called by their full names when it wasn’t necessary to do so, like “Katarina Bishop walked down the street.” When we’re more than halfway through the book? I KNOW what the protagonist’s name is, and I know her nickname is “Kat!” Just call her Kat! “Kat walked down the street” is MUCH less clunky, and it doesn’t make me think I’m being constantly re-introduced to the protagonist when I already know her. And describing a character by their height or hair color instead of using their name just makes me think that new character is being introduced when, no, it’s just Hale or Kat or whatever.
And then when there was a new character being introduced, way late in the plot, by the way, I wasn’t even sure if it was a new character or not because a) the narrator didn’t do good male voices and they all sound the same anyway, and b) because Hale keeps getting described by his physical traits, I automatically assume every “tall boy” is him. And then when it’s not? Confusing. Also, that new character was pointless. I don’t want to get into it any more because of spoilers, but he totally was.
If you like Patterson or Dan Brown or that sort of thing you might not care about the writing, but I don’t like those authors’ books and so I did care. And again I say that if it hadn’t been an audiobook I would have noticed the bad writing quicker and given up on it pretty early on, but because it was an audiobook I stuck with it until it was too late to quit because I was nearly done anyway. But now I wish I had given it up because it was a waste of time. Bah.
3. disappointing plot. Not nearly enough heist, and too much blah blah blah. I didn’t even really like Kat, though I could sympathize with her inability to woo Hale directly to his face (instead she had to woo him with her thieving skills?). However, for being a supposedly fantastic thief/con artist she really sucks at thieving most of the time.
4. the narrator. I do think that the reader of an audiobook can either make or break a book, and while this one wasn’t HORRIBLE it certainly wasn’t fantastic. It had emotions and stuff in it, but that couldn’t hide the badness forever, plus there was the whole issue with all the male voices sounding pretty similar (and not like male voices at all). Good accents, though?
What did I LIKE about Heist Society? Gotta be fair, after all, because I did like some things. I liked:
1. the actual heist. That was pretty cool, on par with the main heist from Ocean’s Thirteen. And I loved the twist at the end! That was some exciting stuff.
2. the romance between Hale and Kat. It wasn’t perfectly executed, and Kat was pretty blind to how into her Hale was, but it was cute.
3. the thing with the art stolen by Nazis during World War II (and a little before). That’s a really fascinating and heartbreaking subject, and I love it when thieves are weirdly moral and want to steal back things that shouldn’t have been stolen in the first place. That’s a great plot point, and probably wanting to see it to the end was what really kept me going ’til the end.
So. I had many problems with Heist Society, and the things I liked didn’t really even it out. I don’t ever want to read another book by Ally Carter again, and I wouldn’t even particularly recommend this one unless you’re more into romance than heist– if you do end up reading it, don’t go into it expecting what I expected. You won’t get it.
Read: February 26-March 2, 2010