“Life after Theft” – Stealing and Redemption in YA Books

Image Credit: Flickr user B Garrett
Image Credit: Flickr user B Garrett

A few weeks ago, a friend and I finally got around to watching Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s 2013 film based on the true story of a group of privileged teens from Calabasas, California who robbed several Hollywood celebrities’ homes between 2008 and 2009. Drawing from Nancy Jo Sales’s 2010 Vanity Fair article, The Suspects Wore Louboutins, Coppola’s film is a cinematic schadenfreude delving into celebrity obsession, excessive materialism, and youthful recklessness. I’m definitely one of those people who watches based-on-a-true-story movies and, long after the credits roll, still wants to know more. I mulled over the audacious actions of these teens and wondered why they felt compelled to steal—something that Coppola’s film doesn’t really address. For more info, I sought out Sales’ article, as well as her 2013 book, The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World.

Expanding on her article, Sales’ book exhaustively details how the “Bling Ring” stole over $3 million worth of clothing, jewelry, and accessories from Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and other Hollywood celebrities, and bragged about their crimes over social media. Incredibly information-savvy, the teens used Google Maps to track down addresses, as well as celebrity news blogs to monitor the comings and goings of their targets. Peer pressure, attaining social cachet, and a desire for fame were a few motivating factors in the crimes. Like the movie, the book is unclear on whether the accused were truly remorseful – its seems more likely they were sorry for getting caught. In any case, readers who love an E! Hollywood True Story-type of tale will appreciate Sales’ exposé.

Given the social and cultural taboos around stealing, I was also curious about depictions of theft and redemption in YA fiction – here are some books that cover the issue in depth without necessarily glamorizing it: 

Trinkets_KirstenSmithTrinkets by Kirsten Smith (2013): This book reminds me of that Smiths song, “Shoplifters of the World Unite,” because, really, that’s kind of what happens here. Three girls from different corners of the high school social landscape come together in a Shoplifters Anonymous group and connect with each other in very surprising ways. Queen bee, Tabitha Foster, has it all – money, a hot boyfriend, and popularity. Shy wallflower, Elodie Shaw, yearns for friends and feels that stolen trinkets are the only way to earn them. Rounding out the trio is bad girl, Moe Truax, who has more to her than meets the eye. Even though it starts off with a Mean Girls-esque vibe—plenty of nasty barbs are doled out, to be sure—Trinkets evolves into an ultimately sweet story about self-awareness, and finding friendship in the most unlikely of places (and with the most unlikely people).

Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike (2013): When Phoenix-transplant Jeff Clayson Life_After_Theft_Pikesets foot on the campus of his tony new prep school in Santa Monica, the last thing he expects is to meet a hot girl who won’t stop following him everywhere he goes. Oh, and she’s also a ghost. In life, Kimberlee Schaffer was a typical mean girl who also happened to be the school’s biggest kleptomaniac. She coerces Jeff into helping her with her unfinished business in the mortal realm, which is returning everything she stole to their classmates. Hoping to get the annoying spirit off his back, Jeff complies. However, in the course of helping Kimberlee redeem herself, Jeff discovers the importance of character and integrity. Readers will definitely relate to this charming, modern take on The Scarlet Pimpernel.

StealingHeaven_ScottStealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott (2009 Best Books for Young Adults): “Dani has been trained as a thief by the best–her mother. Together, they move from town to town, targeting wealthy homes and making a living by stealing antique silver. They never stay in one place long enough to make real connections, real friends–a real life.

In the beach town of Heaven, though, everything changes. For the first time, Dani starts to feel at home. She’s making friends and has even met a guy. But these people can never know the real Dani–because of who she is. When it turns out that her new friend lives in the house they’ve targeted for their next job and the cute guy is a cop, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she’s always known–or the one she’s always wanted.” (Description from Goodreads.com)

So, readers, what are your favorite books about crime and redemption? Please share in the comments below!

-Lalitha Nataraj, currently reading an e-galley of Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho