Five friends scheme to cybersteal college tuition money from a billionaire absentee father.
Brilliant Oregon senior Bellamy gets into MIT early action, but she’s denied financial aid—despite her working-class, single mother—because the father who abandoned her is a rich Silicon Valley CEO. Best friend Nari, an accomplished hacker, comes up with a plan to skim a seemingly undetectable fraction of each of his company’s financial transactions until Bellamy has enough stashed in a secure account to at least enroll at MIT. Nari convinces Bellamy’s squad—Nari’s supportive technophobe boyfriend, Keagan; calm Olympic-hopeful diver Santiago; and adventurous artist Reese—to join the revenge heist, and the crew spends 33 days perfecting a cybercrime that requires distraction and breaking and entering at a high-security office building. The author manages to keep all five voices distinct and compelling. Any of the characters’ lives would’ve made for an interesting stand-alone, and even the two embedded romances—one maturely established, one blossoming—are layered. The friends are also seamlessly diverse (San is first-generation Mexican-American; Nari is Japanese-American on her father’s side, white on her mother’s; Reese is asexual/aromantic; and Keagan and Bellamy are cued as white). Although the plot is a page-turner, the heist itself is less interesting than the nuanced friendship dynamics at play.
This well-paced debut follows exceptionally smart, thoughtful, and loyal friends navigating the morally ambiguous areas of life. (Fiction. 12-18)