Saturday, January 31, 2015

Loot by Jude Watson

After teaching 16 classes the past three days, I just wanted to zone out with a fun book over the weekend. This was perfect. The strong characters, humorous dialogue, and piston-pumping action had me wanting to practice a C grip (a wrist to wrist acrobatic move).  Jules is a circus performer that meets up with her twin brother, March, when a jewel heist goes wrong and their dad is killed. The two did not know about each other until March's Dad, Alfie McQuin, tells him to "find Jules" which March thought was "find jewels." Following his father's clues he finds his twin sister is the "jewel." Both are wary of each other after first meeting, but they set aside their differences. When they discover they each have the same spooky dream of falling off a cliff and March tells Jules about a prophecy that says they will die before they turn 13 years old, which happens to be in a couple of weeks, it's only natural that Jules teaches March how to catch another body in mid-air using the C grip. She's been living with her aunt performing in her circus as an acrobat. March, on the other hand, has been living in and out of hotels most of his life with his master thief father, Alfie. March is helping Alfie on a big heist when Alfie falls or is he pushed? off the roof setting into motion a chase to find seven priceless moonstone gems that are also known to be magical. 

The two siblings don't completely trust each other and are sent to a foster home where they meet Darius and Izzy, two people desperate enough to get out of the foster system and willing to take dangerous and illegal actions to help them. Of course, being offered a million dollars each to help them is motivation enough. A crazy old heiress has approached the four about giving them seven million dollars if they recover the moonstone gems. This reminds me a bit of the 39 Clues series or "Ocean's Eleven" movie. The plot is outlandish and fun. The supporting characters of Darius and Izzy add humor and depth to the theme of four orphaned kids wanting a "normal" home life more than anything. Darius makes up careers for his father that are so out-there everyone knows he's lying to cover up the truth. Izzy is an abused foster kid that is brilliant and protected by Darius. I think the criminal Hamish, a fence - that is one who makes a profit selling stolen merchandise - steals the show. . He is calling the kids, "little yogis" and tries to hide a mistake saying he knows nothing "...I'm so Zen." When he tells Jasmine to cover the cash register she responds that he told her to work on her e-commerce orders and that "Change messes up my aura." She doesn't want to watch the desk. "The universe has many paths, and yours leads to the cash register," Hamish said. "Peace out," she replies. 

The plot is formulaic with the heroes trying to steal back from nasty villains. The heists take place in exotic locations and the kids have access to private jets and money thanks to the heiress. They almost die several times by falling and have a running gag about it that is entertaining. Darius's mother is a hoot too. She's an easy corn flake to love. None of the adults are responsible and they work as nice foils to the kids. A nasty competition between the teenage thieves and a hardened criminal thief ensue that had me rooting for the foster kids. 

March, Jules, Darius, and Izzy all wish they had a grown up in an average home with two parents and it runs through the story like an undercurrent giving the reader empathy for the kids. They haven't had it easy being neglected by the adults in their life and not able to go to school. March is a trained thief while Jules is a trained acrobat. Even though they steal it doesn't give them happiness. Jules talks about wishing for a normal life while March responds that they can make a home if they pull off a heist. That is why March's attitude toward the heist against Blanche seemed hypocritical. Blanche is presented as a stereotypical rich woman that doesn't deserve her money because March said it was unearned and inherited. He has no conscience stealing against a rich socialite and spends it like a rich person buying an entire apartment building and talking about his pool and spa. Jules says that money can't buy happiness but the end shows that it does. In a twist he uses the money to help the person that killed his uncle and another person that tried to kill him. But this is really following the wish fulfillment fantasy of a fairy tale where characters get what they want and are happy about it in the end. I shouldn't take it seriously... 

Every good con novel has a twist and the author sure delivers on that expectation. March and Jules score big but not in any predictable way. The short chapters help make this a page turner and the wham-bam action reminds me of "Stormbreaker" by Anthony Horowitz and "The Great Greene Heist" by Varian Johnson. While most of the story is realistic with nonstop action and adventure there is a slight fantastical element. The gemstones are considered magical and said to influence dreams and the future. The heiress has supposedly defied death twice and claims it is because of the stones.  Part of the novel's fun is it allows kids to live vicariously through the characters making their own rules and being independent. Shoot, adults like to throw off the shackles of responsibility and pretend for awhile too. The orphan story is a familiar trope found in children's books that is a vehicle for gaining independence and living free from authority. It is one reason it is so popular and a blast to read. This adventure had me doing handstands against the wall. Enjoy!

4 Smileys

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