Friday, September 25, 2015

Loot by Jude Watson, 2014

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On a foggy night in Amsterdam, a man falls from a rooftop to the wet pavement below. It's Alfie McQuinn, the notorious cat burglar, and he's dying. As sirens wail in the distance, Alfie manages to get out two last words to his young son, March: "Find jewels."
But March learns that his father is not talking about a stash of loot. He's talking about Jules, the twin sister March never knew he had. No sooner than the two find each other, they're picked up by the police and sent to the world's worst orphanage. It's not prison, but it feels like it.
March and Jules have no intention of staying put. They know their father's business inside and out, and they're tired of being pushed around. Just one good heist, and they'll live the life of riches and freedom most kids only dream about.
Watch out! There are wild kids on the loose and a crime spree coming . . .

(272 pages)

I have to say that when I picked Loot off of the library shelf I had no idea what it was about. I read the tab, thought it really did sound good, and slipped it into my (already full - it's well established that I'm a hopeless book hoarder) bag of books to check out. I read it a few days later, while I was really tired, and started skimming so badly I swear I almost want to go back and read the whole thing over.

Almost. But not really. Because it's really not that complicated, that I could miss too much nuance if I skip a line here or there. I do like the story idea, and it makes a very exciting plot (lots of daring heist scenes) while still maintaining a lot of emotions and heart. It's a story about thievery and lost jewels and mysterious curses, but it's also about friendship and family. And I really liked that.

What I didn't like so much was the fact that thievery is placed in such a good light throughout the book. Yes I realize that the kids don't have much choice, and that they make a point of only stealing from people who "won't be harmed" because they're so rich they'll barely notice, but that doesn't change the fact that March spent his entire life learning the "art" of stealing, and that he's very, very good at it. And I can be impressed with his scheming, but I'm also a little wary of being all gungho behind him as he steals from people - no matter how much money those people will still have in their bank accounts.

Other than that, I did like that Loot was a deeper novel than I was expecting for this sort of MG adventure novel. Jules has some legitimate anger towards the father who dumped her on his sister-in-law in favor of her twin, and at first she's really not very happy about being back with March. As they slowly grow closer, I appreciated that she learned to comfort March when he mourned for their father, even as she couldn't mourn for a man she'd never really known. This level of complexity in relationships isn't always achieved in middle grade, and it was done well here.

All in all, Loot is a great middle grade book that I probably won't be reading again any time soon (because really, I think I'm just not the target audience), but which I'd definitely recommend to a middle schooler looking for a book down this particular alley. My only hesitation in recommending Loot would be if the kid in question seemed easily swayed by what he read: I wouldn't want him to adopt the attitude of the characters in the book, in which thievery can actually count as a valid form of employment as long as you only steal from the rich.

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