Spoiler-free review of Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter:
This book is really fun. If you like fun, then you should read it.
Spoilerish review of Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter that may contain plot details about its predecessor, Heist Society:
I love heist stories. LOVE them. Seriously, you give me a heist plot that at least kind of makes sense, and chances are, I will enjoy it. Give me a heist plot that mostly makes sense (just a few tiny quibbles) and also has humor and extremely likable characters, and I will clap my hands with glee.
Riding high from her triumph in Heist Society, Kat Bishop has gotten a little cocky. In her quest to steal back priceless objects of art originally taken by Nazis and other really bad men, she’s started doing risky jobs all by herself, much to the chagrin of her friends and family. So when an old women approaches Kat and asks her to steal back the elusive, and supposedly cursed, Cleopatra Emerald that was originally stolen from her family, Kat can’t resist. Even if it means going against the wishes of Uncle Eddie, the fearsome family patriarch. Mistakes are made, secrets are revealed, and shenanigans do ensue. I love a good shenanigan.
We get a bit more character development in this one, which is always a nice bonus in stories with this much sheer fun. In Heist Society, Kat’s motivation to get back in the thief game was pretty much to save her dad. This time she’s motivated by ego, pride, revenge, and redemption. It’s messier and a lot more interesting. She’s like a teenage girl version of Nate Ford from the TV show leverage, only with less alcoholism. Hale, Kat’s best friend and love interest, is as charming and snarky as ever, but you see hints about how hurt and frustrated he is over Kat going off on these dangerous jobs on her own. He likes Kat’s strength and intelligence, but I think he feels excluded and maybe a bit abandoned. Femme Fatale Gabrielle is still clashing with cousin Kat, but she’s also the person who sees through the bullshit and will tell Kat exactly what she thinks. As the Fug Girls would say, she’s Kat’s Get-A-Grip friend. As the son of an Interpol agent, Nick is the only one that really gets Kat’s Robin Hood mission, although the rest of the crew is still understandably wary of him. I’m also glad that Carter has given up the Kat/Hale/Nick love triangle nonsense and now I want Nick to hook up with Gabrielle. And we even find out why Uncle Eddie is such a hardass. Yay! (By the way, if that last paragraph doesn’t make much sense, it’s because WordPress lost the original when it didn’t save my draft like it was supposed to, and I was too lazy and annoyed to fully recreate it. But rest assured it was brilliant and insightful.)
My favorite part about this book though, is what Ally Carter leaves out. Take my favorite quote:
“Hey, anyone who thinks a non-military-grade rappelling cable can support the weight of two grown men and a miniature donkey deserves to fall off a cliff.”
What? What the hell does a donkey have to do anything? (p.s. Thanks for the tip.) And the book is littered with off-hand references to different cons and past jobs and I want to know about every single one of them right now! But these things never get fully explained because 1) the characters all live in that criminal world and therefore don’t need to over-explain things to each other and 2) it forces us to use our (gasp) imaginations. This also extends to the romantic subplot between Kat and Hale. There are lots of scorching looks and instances of palpable romantic tension, but the characters don’t spend an endless amount of time discussing their feelings, and I for one am grateful.
And lastly, the unsung hero of this series is the book designer. The covers have a great Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s/How to Steal a Million vibe, and I love how the object that the crew is trying to steal is reflected in the lens of the sunglasses. And you can see the girl’s face! I don’t get as worked up about it as some people, but that’s a rarity these days for YA covers. I also love the map inserts that detail Kat’s location and countdown to the various cons that are sprinkled throughout the story. Not only do the maps help the international master-thief feel, but the timeline helps the reader keep track of the story. Between these books and the Gallagher Girl series, Ally Carter should really send flowers to her designer at Hyperion because he or she is doing a fantastic job.
So to all those whiners out there complaining about the darkness in YA, here’s the fun, joyful adventure you’ve been looking for! And reading this book just might inspire you to go watch Ocean’s Eleven again. This is never a bad thing.