The art world is full of interesting stories. There are always stories behind the making of major works, and then there's the too-zany-not-to-be-true gossip that surrounds many famous artists. Have you ever heard about how van Gogh lopped off one of his own ears? Or how da Vinci dressed in drag?
Some paintings make the news even after they're complete. Did you know that the Mona Lisa lived under someone's stove for two years? Or that The Scream was stolen in 2004? These real-world heists are intense, but they aren't anywhere near as dramatic as the fictional crime that goes down in the pages of Heist Society. Trust us: this book'll have you at the edge of your seat.
Published in 2010, Ally Carter's Heist Society tells the story of a burglar named Kat (as in, "cat burglar"—get it?) and her teen team of art thieves. How does Kat get into the burglary game in this book? Well, evidently, it's a family affair.
Kat's family past-time is thievery—it's their version of playing poker together after dinner, or throwing the old baseball around outside. And one day, Kat's dad is framed for a heist he didn't commit. So now, he's at the mercy of an evil crime boss by the name of Arturo Taccone. And it's Kat who comes to the rescue.
In order to clear her dad's name, Kat must steal back Taccone's paintings. These paintings were hidden by master thief Vasily Romani in the high-security London museum the Henley. Ooh, ahh. (It's not immoral to steal if you're stealing stuff back in order to save your dad's reputation, right? Hm. This sounds like one of those ethics puzzles that make our heads hurt.)
Lucky for everyone, the book is a real page turner, with a plot twistier than an Escher sketch. And Kat's characters that are total Monets... except while they look pretty and perfect from far away, when viewed up close, they're deeply flawed. Which we think makes this book a super interesting read.
Kat is independent and resourceful, yet she she relies on the strengths of her friends in order to succeed. She could be a role model to anyone from your teenage sister to your power-broker dad who needs to manage a team of investment bankers. She's basically all that and a bag of chips, but she's got her dark side, too.
Want to know what happens at the end of the book? Sorry, no spoilers in this section. We will say that the job Kat and her friends pull off is as intricate a Vegas magic act. So if you want to figure out how the trick is done, grab a copy of Heist Society today.
Or, you can check out the film version. Naturally, the movie rights for this book were snatched up faster than you could say "Kandinsky.". Actress/mom/professional angel Drew Barrymore is the director for the adaptation. Still haven't gotten enough of Ally Carter's fun, suspenseful stylings?
Well, fear not, Shmoopers! There are more books in the Heist Society series for you to check out. Kat and her friends, evidently, shake up the art world (and the YA bookshelves) in more ways than one. Plus, Carter has also authored the Gallagher Girls series for your reading pleasure. This gal knows how to write strong female lead characters with her eyes closed.
Why Should I Care?
Because art and thievery go hand-in-hand like pickles and mayonnaise, even in real life. Yep, you guessed it: the plot of the Heist Society pretty much came true in April 2013 when the Louvre shut down due to the abundance of pickpocketers targeting museum volunteers.
Okay, the Heist Society's probably had nothing to do with this epidemic. But, even if you don't care about the Louvre's pick pocket fiasco, don't you still love a good heist story? We think the Heist Society is a work of art and magic in and of itself. Reading it can be like watching a perfect machine come to life; you watch as dozens of independently moving parts work in perfect unison toward a common goal.
Ally Carter pretty much condenses all the slick style and edge-of-your-seat drama of The Italian Job and Ocean's Eleven into this fast-paced book. The only thing missing is a high-speed car chase... but we get a little motion sick when we read in the car, so we can live without it.
So, maybe you care about the politics of art and news-making art thievery incidents, and maybe you don't. Nonetheless, we think this novel is worth a read because it works your brain a little with its winding plot and multi-faceted characters—but it won't feel like work at all, because you'll be having too much fun on Carter's wild ride.