This was one of my most anticipated books of the year, so naturally I chose it for one of my book clubs, because I like pushing books on willing victims. Joke was on me! We all hated it, every single one of us. What was this???? How could such a good premise biff it so hard?
First of all, this is NOT a heist book. We spend approximately 5% of the book with the characters doing crime, and that is probably generous. There is also no planning of doing crime. They watch Ocean’s Eleven to prep. Yep.
The premise here has the potential to be absolutely unbelievable if not given the right tone and justification by the narrative, and that is 100% what happened. Why would a hugely rich entity hire five idiot Ivy League students with no criminal histories to steal back some of the most precious and infamous Chinese art? The answer is they wouldn’t, at least if the conditions in this book hold. They would get actual criminals to do it for them. (I could see another book taking the smarter option of using the kids as patsies. Or having the kids actually be good at stealing things.)
The other main issue besides the execution of the premise is the writing itself. Oh my god if I had to read ONE MORE SCENE of the writing masturbatingly describing the atmosphere around these characters. “Poetic” descriptions of the weather and the ocean and the sky and the sun made up most of the content of the book. STOP DESCRIBING THE WIND TO ME AND TELL ME A STORY. The characters, by the way, were insufferable.
In summation, this is lit-fic that tried to pull in the exact wrong audience of people who enjoy heist novels and also appreciate a good critical takedown of colonialism and imperialism. I originally had this rated two stars because the ideas that motivated the story, particularly those surrounding the Chinese diaspora, were worth reading, but in the end I just really hated it, so rounding down to one star.
[1.5 stars, the extra half star is for the handful of scenes with the one character and his father; those were pretty okay, but the rest of the book can fuck off to the sun]