AJ, a thoroughly modern tomboy, is set up for Victorian horror when she is sent to stay with her grandmother for the summer while her parents conduct research in the Amazon.
Grandma Jo wears nothing but high-necked black gowns, and she insists on calling AJ Annemarie. Worse, Grandma Jo disapproves of soccer, skateboarding, and cellphones, and she expects AJ to learn etiquette, including sewing. And the house is not only creepy, it contains forbidden rooms. Thank goodness there’s a cute chauffeur to take her to soccer, but even that is problematic: best friend Maddie thinks AJ’s becoming stuck up, while rich, mean-girl Brianna decides that AJ is now a worthy companion. AJ is beginning to wonder if Grandma Jo’s friends will be a saving grace; they have style and humor, and they appreciate AJ’s talents. In fact, they push to make AJ one of their circle—which, AJ discovers, is a heist club! The ladies give different explanations for their thievery, but, despite her insight and compassion, readers should not expect cheeky narrator AJ to examine the ethics too closely. She enjoys the thrill and Grandma Jo’s esteem until events take a decidedly dark turn: one decides to “steal” AJ—and it’s not her first kidnapping attempt!
The fast pace, colorful, multifaceted characters, and unusual angle make this a quirky, if perhaps disquieting, grandmother-grandchild bonding story. (Thriller. 8-12)