Sunday, September 19, 2010

ACES UP by Lauren Barnholdt

When I was trying to decide what book to read next last week, I decided to go with another light-hearted cute book and chose ACES UP by Lauren Barnholdt. I supposed because I've been watching the World Series of Poker Main Event each week on TV lately, I had poker on the mind when I gravitated toward this book.  

The summary goes like this: high-school senior Shannon Card needs money for college tuition because her father lost his job and she's been accepted early-decision to Wellesley, so she gets a fake ID and to get a job as a waitress at a casino to make as much money as she can. But she discovers it's a little more difficult than she imagined carrying trays of drinks while walking in high heels, and then gets the mysterious invitation in her work locker to join Aces Up, a secret group of poker players who are really talented because of their math knowledge - and she's just the kind of player they need. Only one problem - she's underage and has never played poker before. As if all of that isn't enough, Shannon's dealing with Max, who used to be her friend until there was an almost kiss they haven't talked about, and Cole, the cute college guy trying to recruit her for Aces Up.  All of that made me think this might be another fun book, and it pretty much was. But really, this book is about a girl who tries to take a quick fix for her problems, ends up getting into bigger trouble, losing herself in the process, disappointing those around her, and has to figure out how to work her way out of the mess she's created.

The thing I liked most about this book is the voice of the main character. Shannon has a great way of narrating in first person that at times seems as if she's talking to the reader in asides.  I really like it because it makes me more invested in what she's going through because I like her - although at times I do wonder if she shouldn't have seen where there was headed long before she did.  I also really liked her way of describing things - she just does it in a way that seems true to the voice of someone her age and she has a sense of humor in her voice that is somewhat snarky at times. The thing that bothered me about her though was that I think she could have taken more control over her relationships, and for as intelligent as she is supposed to be, she sometimes made really stupid decisions in parts of the book.

Here's the problem I had with the book: I feel like it was too easy for Shannon to fall into something with Cole that had no depth to it other than him being mysterious. It seemed like Shannon's character was made out to be more independent and strong than how she was acting with him, so it was hard to buy into her being that into him and into the trouble she got in to. Because that part was a little unbelievable, the story came across as a bit shallow in those parts. I really liked the parts where Shannon was dealing with Max and what was happening with their relationship, and even the stuff with her sister and work friend Mackenzie, I just wanted a little bit more depth to round out all of the characters for a light-hearted, cute, fun, girly read.

Overall I liked it for the voice and humor of the main character, the storyline with her guy friend Max, her relationship with her sister, and the fun poker references.
3 1/2 STARS for ACES UP

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