Review: Heist Society

by Ally Carter

Kat thought she was out of the family business after pulling one last con, getting herself accepted to Colgan School, one of the most prestigious boarding schools in North America, but she’s wrong.  When you descend from a long line of thieves, it’s hard to stay away for long.  Someone has stolen some very precious paintings from a very pissed off, very deadly Italian gentleman named Arturo Taccone.  Taccone is convinced that Kat’s father is responsible for the heist since her father is one of the only thieves skilled enough and crazy enough to steal from Taccone.  Kat believes her father when he says he didn’t do it; he couldn’t have been stealing Taccone’s paintings in Italy when he was stealing a statue from a gallery in Paris the same night.  Taccone is not as convinced of Kat’s father’s innocence and demands that the paintings be returned in two weeks time.  Kat’s father doesn’t take the threat seriously, but Kat has met Taccone and knows he means business.  Determined to save her father, Kat assembles a crack team of teen thieves to help her find and steal back Taccone’s paintings, but things are never as they seem and Kat will have to call upon everything she’s ever learned about thieving to get those paintings back without getting caught.

Reaction: I was previously unaware of the awesomeness of Ally Carter but I have now been thoroughly schooled.  Heist Society was exciting and fast-paced.  It had many of the elements I love in a teen book: travel, interesting character relationships, strong family bonds (however weird), a bit of mystery, and a few wild card elements.  I really enjoyed the relationship between Kat and Hale, a billionaire’s son turned thief.  Both try to pretend to be indifferent to each other but it is obvious there is real affection, friendship, and possibly more between them.  Hale seems to realize it but Kat is slow on the uptake when it comes to her feelings for Hale.  I loved the interplay between the family.  While they all obviously still love each other, Kat is seen as a traitor and no longer completely accepted into the fold because she’s left the family business.  I love that while Kat is determined to no longer be a thief she is mad at herself when some of her thieving skills are rusty and her accents detectable.  I also really enjoyed the historical twist with the artwork.  It turns out that Taccone’s paintings were actually stolen from their original owners by the Nazi’s during WWII and haven’t been seen since.  Kat’s situation with Taccone is further complicated when she realizes he is not the rightful owner of the paintings that were stolen from him.  A great combo of mystery, intrigue, action, adventure, and attraction, Heist Society is a winner.

Review: Academy 7

by Anne Osterlund

Aerin barely escapes slavery on the planet Vizhan, fleeing in her father’s broken down ship, the Fugitive.  Knowing nothing of her past and having no answers since her father died when they crashed on Vizhan years ago, Aerin has no where to turn.  Luckily, a friendly captain takes her onto his ship and secures her a place at a prestigious school, Academy 7.  Aerin knows that she doesn’t really belong at Academy 7, doesn’t belong to the Alliance — the governmental body that supports the academy, and is at a disadvantage since she has had no formal education, so she works extra hard to prove herself, to prove that she belongs and give no one a reason to question her presence.  Dane is the son of the Alliance’s military commander.  His father is powerful and rich but a very hard man.  Nothing Dane does can measure up to his father’s standards.  When Dane is accepted to Academy 7, he only excepts the invitation because he knows his father would not approve, his father having some sort of falling out with the academy years ago.  Dane is famous because of his father’s name and his own bad boy reputation, but behind it all is a cunning mind and he is determined to stay at Academy 7, at the very least to annoy his father.  Aerin and Dane are very different but have more than they can expect in common.  They both have tough, questionable pasts.  They compete for top honors in every class.  They both have secret pasts.  Aerin and Dane are drawn together but will secrets and their own self destruction keep them apart?

Reaction: I found Academy 7 a quick, satisfying read.  While the setting is technically sci-fi, with different habitable planets, easy interplanetary travel, artificial living environments, and more, readers who are not fans of sci-fi will still enjoy the story because at its center is simply two people with complicated lives trying to get by.  I think teens will find themselves able to easily relate to both Aerin and Dane.  They are both prickly because of their pasts and not very trusting of others.  Aerin spent years fighting for her life as a slave.  Dane’s father, while highly revered, abuses Dane both verbally and physically.  What they don’t know is that they are connected by more than just similar experiences and attitudes, but by their family’s shared pasts.  While secondary to their overall connection, finding out the truth about their pasts is an important part of Dane and Aerin’s story.  Readers who like character driven stories with scarred but healing characters will enjoy Academy 7.