Arts & Culture

The Contemporary Robin Hood

Have you ever been blamed for something you didn’t do, and yet everyone seems to think that you’re responsible? Capture that incident in your memory, and then multiply the consequences by ten. Voilà! That’s Katarina Bishop’s predicament at the commencement of Ally Carter’s Heist Society.

Katarina, known by friends and family as Kat, tries her best to be an ordinary girl, but that’s awfully hard when you are a descendent of a long line of thieves, cons, and otherwise criminally invested convicts. Thus, when Kat is framed for a prank she didn’t execute at her high school (although, one must admit, it was a rather genius prank) and is subsequently kicked out, no one really believes she is innocent. However, being kicked out of high school soon turns out to be the least of Kat’s worries. Crime boss Arturo Taccone is missing a few masterpieces from his collection and is convinced, despite the Bishop family’s assurances, that Kat’s father, a notorious thief, is behind their sudden disappearance. Unable to persuade Taccone otherwise, Kat is forced back into the life of thievery she had so desperately fought to separate herself from and is faced with the task of stealing back the paintings from their true thief (along with a few accompanying members of the family business, of course). As Kat weaves her way through a series of comical yet suspenseful events, readers will easily fall in love with Carter’s well-rounded characters and imaginatively fashioned world of crime.

Although Heist Society is a novel full of breathtaking plot twists, heart stopping action, and beautifully witty characters, Carter’s literary genius does not stop there. The entire Heist Society trilogy is an exploration of motivation and morals. Through Kat’s unwillingness to partake in her family’s bad habit of thieving and conning, Carter seems to ask her readers the age-old question of what truly matters: the motivation behind the action, or the consequences of the action itself? For example, would Kat be right to steal the paintings back for their rightful owner, as they were not the thief’s possessions to begin with, or are all forms of stealing always wrong? As the series progresses and the plotlines thicken, Carter further explores this by way of the meaning of family and friendship, and what it looks like to love someone without necessarily supporting their decisions. Kat never ceases to love her family and friends, but she shows exceptional moral uprightness in her unwillingness to conform to family “tradition.” Finally, Carter portrays the gravity of forgiveness. Kat refuses to hold a grudge against Taccone, even though he blamed her father for a crime he did not commit.  In a world where crime is commonplace, Kat continually forgives those who have wronged her, and Carter’s recurring theme of “forgive and forget” subtly encourages readers to do the same.

All of these reasons have contributed to why Heist Society has quickly become one of my favorite mysterycomedies in the young adult novel world. Not only is the plotline beautifully woven, the characters intricately designed and the world fragilely depicted, but Carter creates a moral masterpiece that leaves readers reassessing the morals of stealing, a concept that has rarely been explored since the age of Robin Hood.

So, click open an extra Google tab and go to your library’s website. Place Heist Society on hold (or, in the improbable case that your library doesn’t have it, grab a pint of ice cream and mourn in the corner. No, I’m just kidding, stop crying, my friend. Barnes & Noble was created for moments like this.) Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy a couple hours of light reading!

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