Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

Reading this book made me remember some of the middle grade adventure stories I consumed as a young kid, penned by authors such as Bruce Coville, Eva Ibbotson, and Roald Dahl. Even though it's clearly written for a young audience, the writing doesn't condescend and it has a great vocabulary, so it ends up being the type of story that virtually anyone can enjoy.

Vita is from impoverished nobility and all that remains of their lineage is their name and a castle-- a castle that has left their possession because of an evil land developer named Sorrotore who claims that her grandfather, perhaps suffering from dementia, has sold him the castle for a paltry $200. In the words of school-yard bullies everywhere, he tells them gleefully, "No take-backsies." Vita is filled with fury aimed at this man, who is taking advantage of her ailing, heartbroken grandfather. The home was filled with memories of his late, beloved wife, and now he has only Vita to remember her by, Vita who has her smile--

--and her determination.

Since the law isn't handling it, Vita decides to take the castle back by force. She ends up enlisting the help of some other kids, including a bird-tamer, an acrobat, and a thief. Their plan is to storm the castle and steal the emerald necklace her grandfather hid in one of the rooms many years ago. If they can get it, they'll have the funds they need to hire a good lawyer and prove once and for all that this whole thing was just the scam of a petty conman who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

This reminded me a lot of Up and I think it would make a good Pixar movie, to be honest. It has everything I love in kids' books: fast-paced adventure, a strong heroine, and friendship. I also loved Vita's grandfather: his love for his wife and his family radiated off the pages. I could see why he inspired Vita to do what she did. That isn't always the case in these types of books, and that emptiness of emotion can make it hard to suspend one's disbelief. Not the case here, though. I felt it.

The only thing that made me raise an eyebrow was the use of the word "Latinx" to describe a character who appears once. I get and support wanting to be respectful, but this book takes place in what I suspect is the 1920s due to the references to Polio and speakeasies, and I think there are ways to describe someone with respect that don't come across as glaringly anachronistic.

If you enjoy middle grade novels and adventure stories, THE GOOD THIEVES is a great choice. I grabbed it on a whim knowing that it might be too young for me, and ended up really enjoying it.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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