When the headmaster of their prestigious prep school is arrested for embezzlement and the school risks closure if it can’t pay a debt of 50 million dollars, four teenagers gang together to rob the US Mint. Those kids are at first defined in term of high school cliques — the nerd, the slacker, the loner, the school diva — but obviously the moral of the story is that they’re not so different after all, and the only way they can pull off this heist is by working together and using everyone’s talents.
I was lured in by the pretty cover and by the fact that I love stories about heists. The problem was Alice: she’s a computer nerd, she’s on the math team, she plays D&D, she doesn’t have many friends… In short, she’s so much like me in high school, I knew from the start that I’d either love her or hate her. Unfortunately I ended up hating her in the first chapter, and I almost gave up on the book straight away, which would have been a crying shame. See, Alice likes to think that she’s so smart and knows so much about math, and she often makes comparisons between set theory and the cliques in her school. The problem is that what she says is so, so wrong. For example, to explain her status as social outcast she says: “If you want to get technical, that made me a null set. Which wasn’t even plain old nothing. It was immeasurable nothing.” Which, no, it’s not. Because the very definition of a null set is that it is measurable and its measure is zero. If it was immeasurable, it would not measure zero, it would literally have no measure. To put this in proportion, this is the math equivalent of saying that her blue eyes are the colour of the crimson sky at sunset: it doesn’t make sense, and it makes Alice sound like a poser who’s trying to impress the reader with words that she doesn’t know the meaning of.
Anyway, I’m glad I stuck with this book, because after I got past Alice’s stupidity it was a fun, quick read. There is a lot of suspension of disbelief involved, but it is after all a book about four teens who rob the US Mint so I knew from the start that it wouldn’t be 100% realistic. And the book follows some well-established YA tropes, such as pairing off the two girls with the two boys, and it’s obvious from the start who’s going to end with whom. Also, the big night of the heist? It ~casually~ just happens to be on prom night. But despite that, or maybe because of it, it made for a great light read. I was really curious as to how they would manage to pull it off!
The one problem I had with this book, which makes it just very good instead of excellent, is that at times I had problems telling apart the different characters’ voices. The story is told in alternating POVs, all in first person, and sometimes in the middle of a conversation the current narrator would be like “and then I said this” and I’d be like “wait… which one are you again?” With four protagonists as different as those, I would have really liked to see some more difference in their speech patterns aside from Benny saying “yo” and Alice using stupid math metaphors. It’s a pity, because if they had been more fleshed out the characters would have been great. Jason especially had potential, with his desire to prove he wasn’t useless like his dad and his friendship with the lunch lady, but in the end I felt like that was kind of swept aside and never addressed properly at the end of the book, which is a shame.
I know that this review is 80% complaining, but really what I’m trying to say is that this would have been my ideal kind of book if it had fixed a couple of issues, and also I don’t want to talk much about the bits that I liked because that would be spoilery. So yes, I didn’t much like Alice and Jason, but I loved Dakota and Benny and the story. And I’d definitely want to read a sequel that delves into the characters’ personalities, possibly where they all run off to Europe to lead a life of crime. Pretty please, Ms. Ludwig?! I’d even fix the math metaphors for you. Coin Heist is out on June 10th and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a summer read.