The Classy Crooks Club had not been on my radar, but as soon as I saw one of the authors I follow on Twitter talking about it. My interest was immediately piqued based on the title alone, and within a week, a copy of the book had arrived via the library network. The Classy Crooks Club is a middle grade novel written by Alison Cherry.
It is hard not to like narrator A.J. In one of the first scenes of the book, she describes how to emerge the victor if one were to encounter an anaconda in the jungle. It’s rather gruesome, but it gives great insight into A.J.’s personality. She is not the sort of girl to be afraid of danger or conflict.
A.J.’s parents need to travel to the Amazon for a month during summer vacation, so A.J. is sent to her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother is very strict, and does not approve of A.J.’s unladylike hobbies. Case in point: she refers to A.J.’s skateboard as “that infernal plank”. A.J. just wants to spend time with her best friends, but she only sees them at soccer practice.
It is not a spoiler to reveal that Grandma is not the prim and proper matron she appears to be. As the title suggests, Grandma is the leader of a heist gang comprised completely of other senior citizens; they are “classy crooks” and they only steal things that they feel “deserve” to be stolen, like neglected birds.
The Classy Crooks Club is a very funny book. I read this with my nine-year-old daughter, and there were many parts where we both had to stop because we were laughing out loud. This book also has some great messages; it confronts the issue of “ethical theft”, and there is also a nice subplot about A.J. trying to reconcile her friendship between two groups of girls. Cherry does a nice job with characterization, and everyone receives fair treatment. It is certainly something to consider that the snobby girl who cuts people down might have some insecurities of her own.
I would recommend The Classy Crooks Club. This is a great book for middle grade readers. I did think that the plot took a slightly darker turn towards the end. I’m not opposed to crime in middle grade fiction, but it was a little surprising given the light tone of the book. Thankfully, the issue is resolved quickly. I am looking forward to reading some of Alison Cherry’s YA titles, and I’m hoping that she writes more middle grade books in the future!