One of my favorite movies is The Sting with Robert Redford and Paul Newman – think con men getting some sweet revenge on the rich guy who did them wrong. If you haven’t seen it, you are missing out on a really good time. I bring this up because Con Academy reminded me of that movie in the very best of ways. The charming and clever leading man, Will Shea, takes readers on a fun, outrageous, and twisty adventure that will definitely keep your interest. The author of this book is Joe Schreiber, the author of Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick, which is my go-to recommendation for those most reluctant readers. I can hand his books to the most disinterested tenth grader in the entire world and know it will grab them, and Con Academy is no exception.
Will comes from a legendary line of con artists and he has his sights set on a ridiculously plush and prestigious private school that can give him access to the rich and powerful, setting him up for life. Unfortunately, Andrea has already established her own con at the same school and isn’t willing to share her turf. They make a bet where the winner stays and the loser takes the next bus out of town. But when you are running the long con, you have to know all the variables and there are a few surprises in store for Will, starting with a quiet student named Gatsby who might just steal more than his money in this game. This was a marvelously plotted YA book. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, the author took it up a level I never could have expected. Will is a narrator that readers will instantly like and cheer for, and even when he is admitting some of his past sins, it is hard not to see him as someone you would want to be friends with. He is somewhat of a con man with a heart of gold, but I happen to like that archetype, so I didn’t really mind. Gatsby was somewhat of a conundrum to me. I liked her, but I didn’t always understand her, and I found the romance angle didn’t work as well for me as the rest of the book, but I didn’t mind it. This is simply a pleasure read, so don’t expect a lot of depth, but there is some character growth if feel that you need something to justify enjoying something this fun. This is what I call a “guy book” because it is fast paced and a quick, easy read with a male narrative voice that draws readers in immediately, but gender and age really shouldn’t be a factor – almost every person who gives this book a shot is going to get a kick out of it.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.