by Billy Taylor
First sentence: “I would have killed to go to Princeton.”
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Content: There’s a handful of swear words (no f-bombs that I remember) and some off-screen, implied sex. Plus drug use and teen drinking. It’s in the Teen Section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.
Cam Smith has a goal: finish up at his boarding school, Wheaton, get into Princeton with his girlfriend, and leave his dirty, awful past behind. Then: his dirty, awful past comes for him. In the form of his Uncle (Wonderful, meant very sarcastically), his cousin Roy, and his mother. Who supposedly attempted suicide and is in a mental institution. It turns out that Cam — who is really Skip O’Rourke — is needed for a Big Job, one that will pay everyone lots of money and so they can all be Very Happy. What it turns out to be is a royal mess.
I was torn about this one. On the one hand: long con books. I love heist and long con books. It’s fun to follow the clues, to figure out who is conning who (in this case, everyone is conning everyone) and to see who comes out on top. This one, as far as cons go, was probably overly complicated (it kept twisting and turning), but in the end, very satisfying.
On the other hand: Cam/Skip’s mom was AWFUL. Beyond awful. Neglectful and borderline abusive (“I’m doing this for your own good”), in the end I just couldn’t handle her. (Maybe my opinions on bad mothers have changed since having E in the house…) I not only wanted to smack his family, I actively despised them. The uncle was awful, the cousin was a brat. But his mother didn’t deserve anything but scorn. And perhaps Taylor meant it to be that way, to have someone so awful that the illegal things Cam/Skip did weren’t “too bad”, but it grated on me. In the end, I think it was supposed to be humorous, but I found myself often annoyed. Which is never a good sign.
So: not bad, but not the best con book I’ve ever read, either.