Aces Wild: A Heist

Peachtree. Sept. 2022. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781682634660.
Gr 7 Up–Seventeen-year-old Jack Shannon, scion of Vegas royalty, has a background of gambling lessons, boarding school, and scarce family time. When his powerful mother is jailed for fraud, Jack knows her former associate turned rival, Peter Carlevaro, set her up—but can he prove it? His family won’t help, and Jack’s only friends are other “aces” met online while learning about his asexuality. Fortunately, those friends welcome a trip to Vegas, and are all in on helping Jack with his information heist. It’s a dangerous proposition, though, infiltrating Carlevaro’s secret club with no idea what they’re looking for, and lying to pretty much everyone—including, sometimes, one another. Jack, in addition, is dealing with his first-ever crush and unsuspected family secrets. One way or another his world will come crashing down—but will it crash in the right direction? Amid the glittering world of high-stakes Vegas gambling, the author balances suspenseful heist shenanigans with explorations of Jack’s personal and family struggles. In a large cast of characters, most are distinct and interesting, especially Jack, whose shady ethics and motivations might challenge readers’ sympathies. The asexual aspect could have been more thoroughly explored, but the representation is still welcome, especially of aces with crushes; not every ace is aro(mantic). While Jack is cued as white, his friends are more diverse, including his nonbinary crush, Remy. Cursing is appropriate to characters and situations.
VERDICT Hand this Vegas-heist-meets-teen-drama to readers who are looking for breathing space in their adventures, shady ethics, and asexual representation.

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