Saturday, 21 April 2012
Review: Hit List by Jack Heath
Meet Ash and Ben, teen master thieves; stealing for the rich, hiding from the law...and wanted by some of the deadliest men and women in the world. Ashley Arthur and her best friend, Benjamin, are teen thieves working for the billionaire Hammond Buckland, hunting down stolen artefacts and returning them to their rightful owners - for a fee. But when they stumble across an SOS from an imprisoned girl, they realise they're in over their heads. Because there are others looking for the girl. Corrupt governments. Ruthless corporations. Rogue assassins. Suddenly it's Ash and Ben at the top of everyone's hit list...and when you're about to break into the largest intelligence agency in the world to rescue a mysterious stranger, that's a seriously dangerous place to be.
I am an unashamed fan of the works of author Matthew Reilly, as many of you will already know from the handful of reviews I have written for Reilly books. Action, adventure, guns, explosions, I love them all. Year in, year out thrillers by Matthew Reilly and his many contemporaries rank highly in lists of best selling books, and yet the action thriller genre is often overlooked when it comes to YA literature, or packaged as a time travel adventure, science fiction adventure, etc. Jack Heath is (almost) single-handedly doing something to redress this imbalance.
Last July I wrote a review for Money Run, the first book in Jack Heath's series featuring teen thief Ashley Arthur, and her best friend and ICT whizz, Benjamin. I loved Money Run, and I have been waiting impatiently for the sequel ever since. Although some adult reviewers have questioned the morality of a story that features a pair of teen thieves, I really do not care. Said reviewers probably also read the Daily Mail, and spend their lives searching for something to criticise. Yes, in a way it glamourises theft, but so do programmes like Hustle (popular amongst teens at my school). This is fiction, after all, and to say that young people are going to be encouraged to enter a life of crime by reading books like this would be incredibly patronising.
Perhaps this is not the time to now say that it had me daydreaming about a life of high-end crime, stealing stolen artefacts in order to return them to their original owners, but I just could not help it. Jack Heath has a way of writing that pulls the reader into the action right from the very first page, and he doesn't let go until the final page has been turned. I'm not sure Hit List or Money Run will win many book awards (at least, not those voted for by adults - why is it the shortlists for these awards rarely ever match those for awards decided by young readers themselves?), but they will surely be devoured by young readers with a thirst for action.
I can't say too much about Hit List without giving away some key plot points of the first book in the series. What I will say is that it is more of the same, and I mean this in a very positive way indeed. Hit List was everything that the first book was, and more. This time the action is not confined to one building or one evening, as Money Run was. After narrowly escaping death whilst looking for treasure, things almost return to normal for Ash until she makes an opportunistic break-in of the city library. Whilst there she stumbles across a mysterious, coded cry for help that sees her heading off to Mountain View, California, with the intention of breaking into the headquarters of the largest intelligence agency in the world. If that wasn't enough to contend with, she also has a dangerous assassin hot on her heels and hellbent for revenge, as well as a rival thief who has a reputation for being merciless. As with Money Run, to say much more would be to spoil the various twists that Jack Heath weaves into his story, but if you liked the first book then I guarantee that you will enjoy this one just as much, if not more.
I tweeted Jack Heath recently, asking him if there were going to be more books featuring Ash and Benjamin. It would seem that it all depends on how well this book sells, so if you like action thrillers make sure you get your hands on a copy now. And if you like it, tell all of your friends as I certainly want to read more.
My thanks go to the good people at Usborne for sending me a copy of Hit List to read.