I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Aces Wild by Amanda Dewitt. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Aces Wild, Jack Shannon’s world is falling apart. His mother, owner of a major Las Vegas casino, has just been arrested. Yes, she’s a criminal, but she’s still his mother, and what is this going to mean for Jack’s life, and the lives of his sisters? He’s afraid, and so returns home to help while the dust settles. His idea of help, though, is different than his sisters hoped, though, as he asks his internet friends from his asexual support group to assist him in getting revenge on the man responsible for his mother’s arrest. This man, Carlevaro, is owner of another casino who is determined to take over the entire Las Vegas strip. Not on Jack’s watch, though, as long as he doesn’t get in over his head.
Honestly, the description of this book had me at “group of asexual teens execute a heist” because that sounded delightful. And overall, I did like this!
Jack’s a good character, despite being a kind of foolish teenager. I liked how he grew as a person, though, starting to learn how to be vulnerable with his friends and to ask for support. I also generally liked his friends and sisters, though I feel like they all could have had more depth. Especially Remy, Jack’s love interest; I feel this character really would have benefited from having more personality and development. I still liked them, though.
One aspect I thought was strange was that we didn’t see Jack’s mother at all until the last chapter. For all Jack’s talk of how much of an impact she has had on him throughout his life, the readers didn’t get to meet her or get to know her, so we had to depend only on Jack’s perceptions. It just felt like a strange narrative choice, especially since Jack could have easily gone to visit her in prison earlier in the book. It made the stakes—her reputation, if not her freedom—feel distant.
The weird stakes aside, I did enjoy the heist itself. I don’t know anything about poker, but there was enough information that I could follow what was happening. And there were plenty of instances of dramatic infiltration into the casino to make this a lot of fun. I think there could have been a bit more to the plan, though, but what was there was fine.
I also enjoyed the exploration of the various ways asexuality can be experienced. Jack’s friend group is entirely made of people who identify as asexual, but Dewitt lends this nuance. Some still experience romantic attraction and some don’t, and I appreciated the wider representation within this often overlooked group of people.
In the end, Aces Wild is a decent novel. There are some fun heist hijinks, some drama, some romance, and lots of friendship and teamwork. It isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s still worth a read, and I’d be interested to see what this author writes next.
Aces Wild is available now!