I really like starting entries announcing winners. I mostly just like getting to do it because using the randomizer is fun! And because I know you guys want me to quit blathering and just tell you already, the winner of the entire Gallagher Girls set is…Jessi! I hope you (and your niece) want to cuddle them as much as I do. Send us your contact information and we’ll send you your books.

In honor of announcing the winner of an Ally Carter giveaway, I’ve decided to reach back a little bit and review Heist Society. I must state again – Ally Carter has the best titles in the universe. And look at the cover. I dare you not to love it!

Heist Society centers on high schooler Katarnia Bishop. Kat’s family is royalty. Not the kind with crowns and paintings by ancient masters and oodles of cash, oh no. But they’ve probably stolen at least two of those things. Katarina comes from a family of thieves. The family of thieves. And not just petty crooks – criminal masterminds of an Ocean’s Eleven type, engaging in high risk, high reward capers.

I have to start off by saying that my favorite thing about this book was Katarina. Kat doesn’t want to be a thief, high-class or otherwise. She just wants to go to school and be normal, and she’s arranged for herself to do just that. It’s not until her best friend Hale, who is rich and does have oodles of money, busts her out that she’s pulled back in to the life she tried to run from.

When reading a novel about criminals, it can be hard to get behind the characters if you don’t love them (think Ocean’s Eleven – you root for Danny Ocean because you like him, even though he doesn’t really have a good reason for stealing $150 million from Terry Benedict).Kat is someone you can (and will) love. She’s smart – she’s the criminal mastermind in this novel. And it’s not just about being clever either. She recognizes and utilizes the talents of her crew and is willing to admit when someone is more capable. She’s loyal – she risks her own life to save her father’s, even though the method for doing so isn’t something she wanted to go back to.  And, as I said above, she’s reluctant. Kat has a good reason. And that reason just gets better as the novel goes forward.

Kat’s crew is well drawn. Ally Carter seems to specialize in background characters, which keeps her books from being one-dimensional (not that they were in any danger of that).  Kat’s cousin, tall blonde and willowy, is more than meets the eye. And it’s nice to see the rest of the teens in the group being smart/capable as well, even if they’re using their powers for thievery. Nick was a lot of fun to read about. He was the most open member of the crew in a lot of ways, but was also the one with the most secrets to hide. Nick is one of the big reasons I’m looking forward to the next book, because his interactions with Kat were, for me, the big mystery of the novel. And…I want to say more but can’t for fear of spoiling things. Dang. I saw hints of a love triangle in this book, and I like Nick, but my one true love in this book was Hale.

Hale was interesting – he certainly didn’t need to steal, as he could easily afford any of the things he was taking. At first, I didn’t want to like him for that very reason (taking things for him is a rush, and I kind of wrinkled my nose). But oh as the book went on…sigh. Hale is great. He’s strong and capable and smart on his own, but he lets Kat take care of herself. It’s unique in a YA book to see the boy let the girl handle things, to not take over or to swaddle her up like an infant to protect her. Hale doesn’t always like it, but he lets Kat handle herself and he lets her be in charge. He helps, sure, and he’s always there for her, but he’s not controlling.

But more than that, I can see why Hale likes Kat. And it isn’t just because she’s beautiful or they’re fated. They’ve been through a lot together. He admires her strength and her smarts. And he’s happy just being near her. He doesn’t push, but he doesn’t let her walk all over him either. I said in my Gallagher Girls review than Cammie Morgan was possibly one of my favorite YA leads ever. I think Hale may be one of my favorite male supports ever. I’ve seen Hale described as enigmatic, and I suppose to an outsider he certainly would be. But in this book, seeing him through Kat’s eyes, he doesn’t seem like such a mystery because he doesn’t want to be a mystery to her. I love that.

I would be remiss not to mention the plot, because while characters make books for me, without at least some kind of plot for them to live in a book will be miserable. This is not an issue in Heist Society (or any of Ally Carter’s books).  The plot is exciting but subtle and will keep you flipping pages faster than you knew possible. Though the premise at first seems implausible – teens who re master thieves? – the plot and the strength of the characters is what makes it believable. There are, as I said above, whiffs of a love triangle, but that is not at all a focus. It’s something that lives in the background, strengthening the main plot but not defining it. And the book has a definite beginning middle and end. Even though there is going to be a sequel , even though I’m ecstatic that Kat, Hale and the rest’s story isn’t over, the plot of Heist Society finishes. It’s a series that doesn’t need cliffhangers, and, considering the amount of series I’m having to wait (very impatiently) for, I like that.

When I picked this book up, it was love at first page. Heist Society is one of my most highly recommended YA novels. It’s fast paced, intelligently written, and has characters who will make you fall in love with them. This was the book that made me want to read Gallagher Girls. And it made me want to read about a million more books about Kat. I can’t wait for more.

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