Study Guide

Heist Society Themes

  • Family

    It's possible to have two families: the family you're born into, and the family you choose. Unless you're a time traveler, you probably didn't have any choice in the family you were born into. But some people find a set of non-relatives to be intimate with, to share secrets with, and so on. This "found family" can be as close-knit, or even more so, than a flesh-and-blood family because they're united by shared interests or values. The family that steals together, stays together, right? Well, in Heist Society, Katarina's biological family and her chosen family are one and the same. She was born into a family of art thieves, and she decides to be a thief herself. This kind of family-work dynamic makes things complicated for her, but keeps the reading interesting for us.

    Questions About Family

    1. In Heist Society, what makes someone a member of Katarina's "family"? Cite passages from the text to support your answer.
    2. Is Hale a member of "the family"? Is Nick? Why or why not?
    3. Can Kat rely on her Uncle Eddie? What is up with that guy, anyway?

    Chew on This

    Family members are simply people you can trust—to listen to your problems, to give you hugs when you need them, to help you rob a museum—whether they're related to you by blood or not.

    Kat's family of thieves is like any other family: they get together over the holidays, and even bond over food.

  • Respect and Reputation

    You wouldn't think that a thief would be known for honor. But if video games have taught us anything, it's that thieving is all about respect and reputation, at least it is if you're a raccoon from a long line of thieves (like Sly Cooper) or a self-proclaimed "treasure hunter" with a half tucked-in shirt (like Nathan Drake). We think Heist Society's Katarina Bishop is a little bit Sly Cooper and a little bit Nathan Drake, with a pinch of Lara Croft's sex appeal and survival instinct. What we mean is: you can trust her word. You might not be able to trust her with your Renoir, but her word is priceless.

    Questions About Respect and Reputation

    1. How does Kat's stint at the Colgan School affect her reputation with her fellow thieves?
    2. Kat seems to think Gabrielle is a ditz. Do you think Gabrielle has really earned this reputation, or is Kat mistaken? What might Kat have against Gabrielle?
    3. How did Taccone earn his reputation as a dangerous guy? Do you think Taccone is as dangerous as his reputation leads people to believe, or is he all talk and no action?

    Chew on This

    A thief's career is made or broken by her reputation. Every job counts, and mistakes are never forgotten.

    Thieves aren't the only ones whose reputations precede them. The Henley has a reputation as a highly secure art museum, and Kat ruins that. So, Kat gains a rep as a Prime Thief at the expense of others' good statuses, including that of the Henley and its director, Wainwright.

  • Lies and Deceit

    While a thief can have an honor code, let's face the facts: a thief wouldn't succeed without the uncanny ability to lie to your face. Kat seems to get by on just a few white lies throughout the book, like, "oh, dad, I'm still in school." And she's clearly happy to let Hale do the hardcore cons in Heist Society. We mean, come on, that guy hasn't even told Kat his real name. Deceit runs through his veins. But lies are all part of the job, don't you think? You can be a career liar and still be moral, right? Hm…

    Questions About Lies and Deceit

    1. Do a con artist's lies and deceit really count, if we think of that con artist as "just doing her job"? 
    2. Where does one's job end and one's real life begin? How do you decide?
    3. Who does Kat deceive during the course of the novel—Taccone? Her own family? Herself?
    4. We're told that, "You cannot con an honest man. But if you do... You'll regret it" (20.35 – 20.36). What do you think this quote means? How would the consequences of conning an honest man be different than conning a dishonest man?

    Chew on This

    When Kat tries to live an honest life by attending the Colgan School, it turns out she's just deceiving herself. Funny how that works. Thieving is in her blood.

    Perhaps Kat's family has conned her into working with them again. It starts with a con—Hale framing Kat at the Colgan School—and by the end of the book, we still don't know who Visily Romani is. Maybe it's Kat's dad after all.

  • Morality and Ethics

    So, thieves are all about honor, family, respect, reputation, lies, and deceit. Confused yet? This seemingly hypocritical lifestyle causes some strife for Kat, too. Being a thief with a moral code isn't easy. It's kind of like being Dexter, only without the murder. 

    One of Kat's main inner conflicts is: sm I as bad as Arturo Taccone? Sure, Kat lies, cheats, and steals, but she hasn't blown anyone up, and she doesn't require her crew to get branded as though they're in Project Mayhem. So, is she good, or just not as bad as some people? Perhaps morality is something that only exists on a sliding scale. Maybe nothing is black or white.

    Questions About Morality and Ethics

    1. Do you think Kat and her band of thieves are "ethical"? Why or why not?
    2. Kat steals paintings that were taken by the Nazis back during WWII, in order to return them to their rightful owners. Is it ethical to steal something if it has already been stolen, and you intend to give it back to the original owner?
    3. Was it right for Kat's father to get her into the family business at such a young age? Why or why not?
    4. Is it ethical to keep art all to yourself, like Arturo Taccone does, or should it be in a museum for everyone to see?

    Chew on This

    Morality is all about context. To the average person, thieves like Kat appear immoral. But there are different shades of morality within the thieving world. Arturo Taccone, for example, is pretty nasty compared to most people.

    Your moral code is based on how you were raised. Since Kat was raised to be a thief practically from birth, she doesn't see anything wrong with it.

  • Women

    While it may or may not be a man's world anymore, the world Kat lives in is definitely a man's world. Think of all the heist movies you've seen or games you've played. Who are the stars? George Clooney. Clive Owen.  Nathan Drake. That's some testosterone overload, bro. Heist Society's Kat definitely breaks the mold. Not only is she young, but she has two X chromosomes. Plus, contrary to your average chauvinist's belief, she's skilled, levelheaded, and gets the job done. We have a feeling that the fabled Visily Romani might just be a woman, too… Guess we'll have to read the sequel to find out.

    Questions About Women

    1. Do the men in Kat's life treat her differently because she is female?
    2. How would Heist Society be different if Kat were male, or if the focus were on Hale's story?
    3. Does Kat treat Gabrielle fairly, or does she look down on Gabrielle for being a supposedly flirty female?
    4. Why are the boys so surprised when Kat wears a dress? What does this say about their perceptions of Kat?

    Chew on This

    Thieving is a man's world. Heck, the whole world seems like a man's world at times. But being a thief gives Kat some power in a male-driven world. Maybe that's why she does it.

    Heist Society pulls off a nifty little gender reversal by having Kat, both a female and a teenager, save her father, an adult male.

  • Art and Culture

    Art is more than just pigments on a canvas. All great art pieces have a history, and carry with them a whole host of emotions, as if they were, themselves, alive. People get so attached to the Mona Lisa  and the Girl with a Pearl Earring, it's almost as if they fall in love with them. People welcome these paintings into their homes, admire their beauty, kidnap them, and hold them prisoner. Heist Society highlights how art can be a life-or-death obsession for some folks, including Kat's family and Arturo Taccone. What do you think art means to them, really?

    Questions About Art and Culture

    1. Is con artistry an art? For that matter, is Simon's specialty—computer hacking—an art? What we're getting at is, what exactly constitutes art?
    2. If a gangster steals a painting and hides it in a vault, does that strip it of its artistic value? That is, does art retain its value if no one ever views it?
    3. Why didn't Ally Carter, the author of Heist Society, use real works of art in her book?

    Chew on This

    There's a difference between art and craft. A painting is art, because it's a creation that people gather to analyze and appreciate. Thieving is merely a craft, because while it takes immense skill, it isn't on display for people to appreciate and analyze. At least, if the thieving is done right…

    Thieving is just as much an art as painting is. Both acts require skill, study, dedication, and risk. Thieving is art in motion.

  • The Home

    People with millions of dollars often have more than one home. Maybe a nice cabin in Maine, a mansion in Beverly Hills, a bungalow in Florida. But which one of these houses do you think they call "home"? In Heist Society, Kat doesn't have any home at all. This simplifies things for her, especially compared to Hale, whose family might have an estate in every time zone. Hale doesn't seem to feel comfortable in any of those houses. Perhaps money can buy you houses, but it cannot buy you a home. And, in Kat's case, maybe it's not possible to have a home without some kind of family, either…

    Questions About The Home

    1. Where does Kat feel most at home? How about Hale? What about Gabrielle?
    2. Do you think Kat would have ever felt at home at the Colgan School? Why or why not?
    3. Why is Uncle Eddie one of the only thieves with a permanent home?
    4. Where do you think Kat's dad believes his home is?

    Chew on This

    You've heard the phrase, "home is where the heart is." Maybe, to Kat, "home is where the art is." Sorry, we couldn't resist. Once the groans die down, think about how comfortable Kat is when she's pulling off a big heist. Maybe she feels most at home doing what she loves. Maybe you do, too.

    Until Kat comes to terms with her own identity as a thief, she might never feel truly at home anywhere she goes.

  • Exploration

    One reason to read fiction is to get a different view of the world from the comfort of your own couch, bed, or toilet. How many of us would have lived through war-torn France during World War I, suffered through an endless New England winter, or visited Middle Earth without the help of a book? World travel is one major draw in Heist Society. Within the first 80 pages, Kat's travels to Italy, Las Vegas, New York, and England. And she pretty much sees the entire European Union before you turn the last page. We're guessing you'll be hunting for the sequel to see where Kat goes next. (Spoiler alert: it might just be Egypt.)

    Questions About Exploration

    1. How many different places does Kat visit during her travels? Do you feel you get an accurate feel for these places?
    2. Of all of the places Kat travels to, where would you most want to go?
    3. Does Kat get any thrill out of globetrotting? Or are her travels merely functional—a means to an end?
    4. Do you wish that Ally Carter, the author of Heist Society, wrote about a real art museum instead of the fictional Henley museum? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Travel is like art: it provides you with little windows into the world. You get to see how people live, eat, look, and so on.

    Heist Society's focus on travelling is less for Kat's sake—she's actually fairly jaded about the whole world travel thing—and more for our own. Her travels allow us to live glamorously, for just a moment, as we read this book.