Schreiber, Joe. Con Academy.
August 4th 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Will Shea enters Connaughton Academy after his parents, who were missionaries, are killed on a remote Pacific island. He meets Andrea, whose parents where US foreign aide workers in the Balkans who were also killed. Except... they are both working cons. Will's father is really in New Jersey, and Will wants to get away from it all and get a decent education. Andrea doesn't appreciate her home turf being invaded by another con artist, so she offers Will a bet; whoever can fleece unpleasant but very rich bully Brandt Rush out of $50,000 gets to stay at the school, and the loser will leave. Will doesn't want to take the chance that Andrea will expose him, so he contacts his uncle and starts to set up a scam. He gets himself invited to a casino night, places some large bets and wins by cheating, and then invites Brandt to go to an online gaming site in person. Of course, it's all a scam, but when Brandt wins big, he's ready to go back. The problem? Andrea has become his girlfriend and talked him into donating money to a charity... on the island from which Will claims to be. This speeds up the time frame quite a bit. To complicate matters, Will has developed a relationship with Gatsby, who works in the library and is a member of the Academy's exclusive Sigils organization. Will is invited to join, but must complete a challenge before they will accept him. Then there's the little matter of keeping up with his classes. Things come to a humorous head very quickly, as one would expect from a book by the author of the fabulous Game Over, Pete Watson.
Strengths: Such fun, and perfect for readers who want books that are a bit more mature than The Forth Stall. An excellent choice for high school readers, but also appropriate for middle school. Rather like Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls in a way, with con artists instead of spies. Loved the romance, the rivalry between the con artists, and all of the details about how to talk Brandt out of his money. This will never be back on the shelves.
Weaknesses: None that pop into my head! Does Will mature? A little. Okay. Maybe a tad weak on character development, but this was so much fun that I didn't care.
What I really think: I love everything about this but the white cover, which will show dirt too easily!