Scholastic Press, April 1 2013
young adult thriller
ARC received via publisher (thank you!)
Fifteen-year-old Ash Arthur and her best friend Benjamin have been pulling off heists for their entire friendship, but never have they attempted to steal $2 billion from the world's richest man. Ash is sure she can infiltrate the HBS building with Benjamin as her remote back-up. Once inside, though, it's clear she isn't the only criminal loose in the building. Michael Peachey, the world's second-best hit man, is here—and so are a whole lot of other people—with lethal goals.
It's such a pretty cover—the angle, the glassy cool colour scheme, the high-stakes situation—but this scene doesn't actually happen, at least not to our heroine pictured here. Small quibble, though, in the face of this gorgeousness.
Oh man, this book. Jack Heath is the author of my favourite sci-fi thriller, Remote Control, and he just became the author of my favourite contemporary thriller. Heath does action scenes so well—not only the high-level car chases and shooting, but also stealthy logical plans and gadget-fuelled infiltrations. These sequences are literally breathtaking; they're so tension-filled that it requires one to pause and catch one's breath.
Ash and Benjamin are perhaps the best duo of YA I've read. Not only do the dynamics of their relationship come out entirely through the conversations, as Ash is on-site and Benjamin watches her back at home, but they provide fabulous contrast for each other; they're perfect foils. Benjamin's casual, continuous asking of Ash to go out on a date only serves to highlight their friendship. It's a thing of beauty.
POV switches happen often, and they're used to excellent effect. Several glimpses into Michael Peachey's psyche are offered; Detective Damien Wright and Ash match wits in a delightful daredevil display; and female characters are equally represented. Another perk of multiple POVs is the interweaving of themes: the billionaire Hammond Buckland provides an interesting perspective for Ash and the reader to think about regarding greed and money, while Detective Wright muses upon the desensitizing of—or lack of—citizens to deaths.
The tension in the plot winches higher and higher as more and more deadly characters and their motivations are divulged. Head-spinning layers of details peel back, culminating in an ultimate reveal about the money. A final twist at the end finishes off the story in a supremely satisfying way, and also leaves possibilities for more Ash and Benjamin adventures. (It all depends on whether Scholastic decides to publish the second, The Hit List.)
Ethnic balance: 2 out of 5. One government agent is Korean, but there's very few other mention of skin tone, aside from very white surnames.
Rating: 4.8 out of 5