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The Con Code

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The Con Code by Shana Silver, 336 pages. Swoon Reads (Macmillan Publishing Group), 2020. $19.
Language: R (118 swears, 1 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG
BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL
AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE
Seventeen-year-old Fiona rules the school when it comes to cons and forgeries. When an FBI agent and his son move into town, Fiona knows to be cautious of the new enemy on her turf so as to not draw attention to her and her father’s illegitimate past times. Fiona is shocked when her enemy isn’t interested in busting her but, instead, wants to steal her clientele as he cons his way into everyone’s hearts and wallets.
Reading Fiona’s story was painful -- excruciatingly so at the beginning, though it eventually eased a little. I couldn’t watch Fiona fall for the cons I could see coming, and Silver was so good at making me hate Colin that I dreaded the rest of the book, wary of what he would do next. Kudos to Silver for eliciting strong emotions, but it backfired by making it difficult for me to motivate myself to keep reading through my embarrassment for the characters (mostly Fiona). The Con Code was not quite the fun con book I was hoping for, though there are still plenty of amazing and improbable feats completed by teenage con artists. I ended on amicable terms with this book, even if I know I’ll never reread it. The mature content is for innuendo, mentions of sex, partial nudity, and illegal activity.
Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen
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Shana Silver's The Con Code is her sophomore follow-up to Mind Games. The Con Code is a cross between Ocean's 8, Heist Society and Gallagher Girls. 17-year old Fiona Spangler has been schooled in the many arts of forgery and theft. She can pick complicated locks, she can slip into any place without notice, she can create near perfect replica's of famous paintings, she even lives by rules she tries not to break. But, she can't forgive her mother for leaving her behind 7 years ago with a list of clues that she, her father have been trying to solve for years.

Fiona and her father are, in essence, trying to steal her mothers paintings and replace them with fakes created by Fiona in order to uncover the clues that she's left behind. Fiona and crew have replaced over 75% of the paintings with only 3 more to go before they can unravel where her mother went and why. But, trouble in the form of Colin O'Keefe arrives at her school and immediately challenges Fiona's supremacy at the school. He pushes her to the limits and even goes as far as conning the alleged super con herself.

Oh, and he's also the son of an FBI Agent Ian O'Keefe who works white collar crimes and has been searching for Lianne Spangler for years. Then all hell breaks loose when Fiona's father is arrested after accepting a rush job that sends Fiona and her friends (Natalie and Tig Ramirez) on a cross country adventure that will test the mettle and the skill sets of all players involved, including Colin who joins the merry band of misfits in order to hunt down the final 3 clues. The four join a bus tour from California to New York where they have to avoid being caught by the FBI and other authorities. 

There is a bit of twist while they are on the run which makes Fiona think about why she wants her mother back when she walked away without looking back. Overall, this is a fun story. I loved Fiona. I loved her relationship with her father, especially the ending which I won't spoil. I really liked Natalie the constant in motion disguise guru. Tig is also wonderfully brilliant character who has eyes only for Natalie and doesn't say a whole lot throughout the book. She prefers to use emoji's. Fiona and Colin are a twisted couple. He isn't as perfect as one would believe. He does some dumb things, but in the end, everyone has to play a part. 

In my humble opinion, Fiona makes the correct choice in the end. She has her father who has never once turned his back on her, she has her best friends Natalie and Tig, and now she has a boyfriend who she can go on adventures with if she doesn't hang up her tools and her cons first.
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Shana Silver blends high stakes suspense with breath-taking adventure and emotional romance in her fantastic YA novel, The Con Code.

By day, high school student Fiona Spangler runs small cons for a profit for her fellow pupils at their ritzy prep school, but at night, she joins her dad for some very risky heists. Forget about hall passes and fake IDs, as soon as night falls, Fiona and her dad are involved in some pretty shady activities that involve them stealing back the clue-filled forgeries which her mother had scattered all over the United States prior to disappearing seven years ago. Fiona and her dad hope that by finding all these paintings and deciphering the intricate codes hidden within these works of art, they can get closer to finding the woman who had broken their hearts when she had disappeared out of their lives. Only three more heists remain and Fiona is confident that once they reclaim all the paintings, she can be reunited with her mother again. Until disaster strikes and her father is captured by the FBI. What is she going to do now?

Her father had warned her to be careful of Colin, the new kid at school whose dad happens to be a federal agent. But the more time she spends in the company of the charismatic and clever Colin, the more she realises that he’s as much of a con artist as she is! Colin is not adverse to pulling stunts in order to make a fast buck out of his fellow overprivileged students and although Fiona knows that she should give him a very wide berth, she slowly begins to fall in love with him! However, with her father in custody, romance is the last thing on her mind. 

With three more heists to pull, Fiona must keep her head in the game and ensure that they find the paintings and her mother. With everything to lose, Fiona – alongside a coterie of teen criminals – vows to do whatever it takes to be reunited with her family. But will she be successful in her quest? Will she manage to evade the long arm of the FBI? Or will this last con end up being the one that puts paid to any hope she might have had of being part of a family again?

Shana Silver’s The Con Code is a slick, stylish and suspenseful page-turner that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and eagerly turning the pages as they find themselves completely caught up in this nail-biting tale of danger, risk and adventure. Shana Silver writes with plenty of flair and humor and will have readers rooting for Fiona as she gambles her life, her heart and her freedom for the sake of her family.

A fun and fast-paced read YA fans will thoroughly enjoy, Shana Silver’s The Con Code should not be missed!
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The Con Code was a fun adventure. I enjoyed the plot and character development. I however felt the parents were the worst parents you could possibly find. It is one thing to be a criminal yourself or for a child to sneak around and instigate a con themselves but that was not the case in this situation. Fiona's parents want to teach her the tricks of the trade. Her dad is taken to prison by the FBI but no lets still have her continue on with the con. Besides my parental issues with this one, it was still a fast fun read with a touch of romance.
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This was a nice diversion from real life, and just what I needed. Seventeen-year-old Fiona is the daughter of con artists. Her entire life has been devoted to learning the craft of the con. A talented artist and impeccable forger, she and her family have been pulling cons as long as she can remember. But when she was ten, her mother disappeared and left clues on how to find her in her forgeries. Fiona and her dad have been working to retrieve the forgeries and the clues so the family can be together again. At least until her father is caught pulling a job. Now Fiona must complete the mission herself. She pulls together a ragtag crew of high school friends, including a tech genius, a former cosplayer turned master of disguise, and her arch nemesis, but charming classmate she may or may not have a thing for,

Plot
The story centers around Fiona finding her mother and the heists she needs to complete to gather all the clues to find her mother. The heists were well-planned and executed, and added such an entertaining thread through the book. There is a subtle romantic element with Colin, the son of the FBI agent who arrested her father and a number of twists; some I saw coming, others I didn’t, making this a well-plotted fun read.

The Characters
The characters are what really makes this story. Fiona is a fully-engaging anti-hero as a con artist. At no point did I not pull for her. She’s a criminal, but she was so lovable and relatable, I wanted her to succeed at every turn. Her dad, while singularly driven, still clearly loves his daughter and puts her needs above his own. Her best friend Natalie and her tech guru, Tig, are both interesting in their own ways. And Colin, as the potential love interest, is just as complex as Fiona.

Top Five Things I Enjoyed About THE CON CODE
1. Heists. We’ve been rewatching the Ocean’s Eleven movie franchise and I forgot how fun a well-developed con can be.

2. Fiona. She is so dedicated to finding her mom, but her loyalty to her crew at all costs makes her a hero to root for to the very end.

3. Action. The story moves with a lot of action and edge-of-your-seat suspense.

4. Loyalty. Fiona is loyal to her family and her friends and those loyalties are tested, making her even more relatable.

5. The Ending. I wasn’t sure how things were going to end up, but the author did a great job of wrapping everything up in a satisfying ending that wasn’t predictable.

Bottom Line
A thrilling escapist read with fantastic characters and lots of action.
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This is a great book that is similar to Ally Carter books. I enjoyed the plot and little romance sprinkled in. There were enough plot twists that the storyline felt real. LOVE the ended. Way to grow a character! I cannot wait to recommend this read to my students.
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Fans of Ally Carter books must read this. What a fun YA heist themed novel. The mystery, story and action were engaging from start to finish.  I loved the light-heartedness YA offers in this genre.  As a romance fan, there was enough in here to keep me interested and cheering for the characters. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.
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4.5/5 Stars!

I absolutely loved this book! It hooked me in with the action packed first few pages and from there I had a hard time putting it down. It was much more focused on the action than the characters, but this wasn’t a negative thing at all. I didn’t see any of the plot twists coming, either, and they definitely shocked me (I think I gasped out loud)! If you like plot twists and characters teaming up to break the law then I would highly recommend this witty and gripping novel!
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**3.5 Stars**

I loved the plot and the fast pacing of the writing where there was never a dull moment. The gang got into all kinds of dilemmas, went through every con I could have imagined (and a ton I couldn't have imagined) and escaped some very difficult situations. I also really like how this is a standalone story that completely wrapped up everything, leaving no loose ends (even while I found the end to be bittersweet and a touch heartbreaking). The Con Code was a book about friendship, family and romance, all in a high stakes action packed setting.

I will say that I struggled a little with how easy the main character, a girl who has been taught her whole life about cons and how to evade capture from authorities, fell for cons/tricks from a boy with no training, just his natural charisma, multiple times. I wanted to facepalm at how easy she was to manipulate, it seemed out of character to who I thought she was. Also, sometimes things in their master plan were just a little too easy- like a magical school educational trip that just happened to go to the three spots they needed and was leaving the next day. If you can suspend belief and just get lost in the action and capers, this is a great read (I just sometimes analyze too much for my own well being)

This is 100% a fun, fast paced read to escape into. The Con Code is a perfect choice for anyone who likes suspense and mischief, for fans of Ocean's Eleven movie series but in a YA form, and found families.
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The Con Code follows teenage con artist Fiona Spangler and her quest to find her mother by cracking the codes she left behind on forgeries all over the United States. By day, she’s a student at an elite prep school in San Francisco where she pulls off small cons for her classmates. When Colin O’Keafe, the son of a prominent FBI agent starts attending school with Fiona, the two quickly clash. As it turns out Colin is somewhat of a con artist of his own, and neither of them are looking for competition. But when Fiona’s father is captured by the FBI, the two put aside their differences to track down the remaining forgeries, and hopefully find Fiona’s mother once and for all.

This was the second book I read from author Shana Silver, and I think I liked it even more than her first book, Mind Games. It reminds me a lot of the Gallagher Girls series crossed with Ocean’s 8. It was such a fun story! The story is told entirely in the first person from Fiona’s perspective. I liked Fiona but she definitely had an interesting moral compass. As the story went on, I liked her more and more.

Thank you to XPresso Book Tours, Swoon Reads, and Netgalley for the review copy! All opinions are my own.
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A slow burn, high action, race against the clock YA contemporary with heists, hackers, con artists, mystery, twists, and swoons! There's a lot to unpack here that will have you wondering and guessing with one twist in particular leaving me bug eyed. The Con Code is sure to check a lot of boxes with readers. Don't miss it!
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Before I started this book, I felt like I was in a reading slump. Normally I love reading and have a huge TBR of books I cannot wait to start. But reading just felt like a chore. 

However, once I started this book any sort of slump I was in vanished! I could not put this book down, however, since I started it really late in the night and I had work in the morning, I had to put it down. 

This was such a cute and fresh read that was exactly what I needed. It follows the story of Fiona and her con-artist family and the mysteries surrounding her mother's disappearance. 

Through in some positive female friendships, con-artist rivalry (and maybe some romance), with a dash of teenagers outsmarting the FBI and you have one stellar book. 

My only negative thought was there was a LOT of tongue clicking in this book. I felt like every character at one point or another, would click their tongue in response to something. Which wasn't bad, it just happened frequently enough to be noticed. 

Overall 10/10 would recommend for a really cute light-hearted book!

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for this advanced readers copy! All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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The story had a ton of potential! The premise and the plot were very intriguing and I really loved the first several chapters. I really liked the introduction of each character and the way the plot just got thicker and thinker in several areas. 
This is a three star read for me because of the plot inconsistencies yes the plot thickens but that also exposed holes. Certain heists were talked more about than others, and some of the characters didn’t hold up to the suggested depth. 
There were several lose ends at the end and I wish the epilogue went more into all that...It seemed certain characters were forgotten about in conclusion , and I’m still trying to figure out how things were made okay in the end.
Needless to say, I enjoyed most of the this story, but there were certain factors that drastically hindered my overall star rating.
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Before Fiona learned her ABC's and how to count and everything needed for school, she was being taught the art of heists and forgeries. She was, of course, her parent's daughter. Her parents were two of the biggest criminals. Her mother a mastermind at forgeries and stealing and her father - the charmer. That was until she was younger and her mother disappeared and it was just her and her Dad pulling the jobs and as Fiona got older, she soon learned that by retrieving her mother's forgeries - they each contained a potential clue to tracking down her whereabouts. It is Fiona's last year at high school and now her Dad has been caught by the FBI and it's up to Fiona along with her best friends to track down the rest of her mother's forgeries and follow the clues to find her. However as the group goes on the run and tries to track down their mother, they will have to remain a few steps above the FBI as they are closing on them quickly. I have to admit when Fiona finally finds her mother, it was quite a sad reunion as her mother was selfish and quite narcissistic and showed she only cared about herself and no-one else which went against Fiona and her Dad's values. When faced with the choice of choosing to flee with her Mother or stay and protect her best friends/crew - what will Fiona choose? Find out in this fun YA spy/criminal heist book by Shana Silver. Fans of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series will love The Con Code.
 This book is perfect for anyone who has ever dreamed of ever being a teen Spy/Criminal and I also loved near the end the talk of the Isabelle Stewart collection in Boston which is still one of the world's best-unsolved heists from the early 1990s.
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The Con Code by Shana Silver is a 3.5 star read for me.  The premise is fun, the characters are well-developed, and the heists are clever and entertaining.  However, the beginning and ending of this book are lacking.  It took me far longer to finish this book than it should've, and that was simply because it was initially easy to put down and forget about.  Once I made myself continue, I found myself really getting pulled into the story.  As I said, the heists are a lot of fun, although they do require a fair amount of suspension of disbelief to believe that a group of teenagers could successfully run these cons.  Nonetheless, it's easy to root for Fiona and her crew, especially when a few twists make their plans that much more difficult.  

But then arrives the final chapter, and all the build-up seems to sort of just fall apart.  I admire Fiona's determination to find her mother, but the end of her journey is anticlimactic and abrupt.  It almost feels as if the narrative could be hinting at a sequel, but then the epilogue basically wraps things up, so I'm not sure what Silver is trying to do.  

All in all, The Con Code is a fun and easy read that reminded me of Ally Carter's Heist Society series or The Greenglass House books by Kate Milford.  While I wish the beginning and ending were handled differently, Silver does create a fun heist story with sweet, smart characters, and I wouldn't say know to trying more of her books in the future.
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Shana Silver is becoming an auto-read author for me. I had so much fun reading Mind Games last year, and The Con Code was a great follow up. It's a fun, light read that I flew through. Ocean's 8 but with teens, it's a perfect summer read. So while it wasn't the best book I've read this summer, it was fun and I'm really glad I picked it up.

The characters in The Con Code were good. Not great, but good. I liked Fiona a lot as the main character, her motivations were clear from the beginning and she stay true to those throughout. The side characters all felt a little one dimensional to me. Honestly, I've forgotten most of their names now that I'm several weeks out from reading the book. They were fun while reading, but didn't leave a lasting impression on me.

I felt that the story for this one was a little unbelievable, but it was fun! If I hadn't been reading with critique in mind I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more. And I thought that the ending was especially good, easily the strongest part of the entire story. So it's definitely worth reading for that aspect.

The pacing was a bit off for me. Yes, it was a fast read, but it's a pretty short book so that was almost a given. There would be really fast-paced action sequences, followed by slower in-between bits, but they didn't feel quite balanced. Sometimes those in-between bits seemed to drag on a little too long, or there would be a weird time jump that made me feel like I was missing out on some of the story. Still, there was enough action that, paired with the overall shortness of the book, it was a quick read.

So yeah, I liked The Con Code! Is it an instant favorite? No. But it was delightful to read, funny at times, and really stuck the landing with its ending. I know that I can go to Shana Silver's books for fun, so I look forward to more in the future. In the meantime, I can see myself revisiting The Con Code if I'm looking for a fun heist book that isn't fantasy.

This review will go live on NovelKnight on 7/23/20.
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Loved The Con Code! It was a very quick read. The character relationships were great and the mystery was fun to follow.  This would make a great series.
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I love a good heist story, and Shana Silver really knows how to pack the suspension and tension into her books. The heists throughout this book were fun and fast-paced to read through--each one leading to a clue that would help Fiona find her long-gone, estranged mother. The friends making up the heist team are a great set of characters to follow, and the slow burn, enemies-to-lovers romance as well added depth to the story (and I'm tough to please, when it comes to the enemies-to-lovers trope!). Definitely an excellent book for anyone looking for a summer thriller.
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I'd give this 3.5 stars rounded up for the clever premise.

What I especially enjoyed:
~ the premise -- I liked seeing how they planned their cons and pulled them off.
~ the characters -- although they had some aspects that pulled me out of the story here and there, overall I enjoyed the 4 main YA characters.

What wasn't as strong for me:
~ suspending my disbelief -- I just had a hard time finding any of this credible for a number of reasons. I think part of it was the skimming over details in one spot and going too deep in others -- it felt uneven to me, and made it seem like fiction (which, of course, it is).
~ the romance -- I actually couldn't really understand how either Fiona or Colin could trust the other; their characters weren't portrayed (to me) in such a way that their relationship made sense.
~ Fiona's constant focus on her mom -- for me, her relationship with her dad wasn't focused on enough, and I didn't understand at all why she had this need to find her mom. The resolution of that part of the story also didn't work for me (as far as the emotional component goes).

I ended up skimming a lot of this because so much of it felt either predictable or too detailed. Still, I think teens might find this pretty entertaining, and they *are* the target audience, after all. ;)
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Thank you to #NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for allowing me to read a digital ARC of The Con Code by Shana Silver. This YA book will be released on August 25, 2020. All opinions are my own.

Fiona is used to a life of crime. Her mother is a forger and art thief and her father is a lawyer by day and confidence man by night. For years, Fiona's mother trained her in the ways of the con. Then, when Fiona was 10-years-old, her mom disappeared and went on the run. Since then, Fiona and her father have been working on replacing her mother's forgeries in order to find the clues she left behind and reunite with her. Things go sideways when FBI agent Ian O'Keefe moves to town with his son Colin. It's obvious that Agent O'Keefe is after Fiona's mother. Colin, though, is a bit of a mystery as he starts running cons at school and seems to be the exact opposite of his father. After Agent O'Keefe arrests her father, Fiona puts together her own crew in order to collect the last three clues and finally find her mother. To do this, she will have to stay one step ahead of the FBI.

The Con Code is a fairly straight-forward YA heist novel with, of course, a romantic sub-plot. I love a good heist book, but this one just fell flat for me. I have to admit that parts were a little bit predictable. There is also a bit of a pacing problem for me. Things move very quickly in parts and elements don't get fully explained and other elements seem to fall into place far too easily. The book was enjoyable, it just didn't have the depth or complexity I was hoping for. This is a YA book but is appropriate for middle grade readers as well. While there is a lot of theft and evading the FBI, there isn't anything necessarily inappropriate for middle grade readers.
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