August 29, 2022

Aces Wild

By Amanda DeWitt
Review by
This heist thriller shines with candy-coated noir sensibilities, rat-a-tat dialogue and a well-developed squad of friends.
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You don’t have to be a gambler to know the phrase “high risk, high reward.” Debut author Amanda DeWitt puts it all on the line in Aces Wild, a Las Vegas heist thriller. It’s a story about family, secrets and—you guessed it—taking risks.

Jack Shannon isn’t straight, in more ways than one. He’s the asexual (or “ace”) heir of a less-than-reputable casino mogul, and the triple cherries don’t fall far from the tree: Jack runs an illegal gambling ring out of the basement of his elite East Coast boarding school’s library. He likes playing Danny Ocean (minus the romantic entanglements) well enough, but his dusty blackjack tables and rich, straight patrons leave much to be desired. Jack finds real solace with his friends, a group of ace teens who connected via online message boards but have never met in person. 

When his mother is arrested for her ties to organized crime, Jack is pulled back to Las Vegas. There, he must find a way to save his family’s casino and exact revenge on Peter Carlevaro, a rival casino owner who also happens to be his mom’s ex and whom Jack is certain is behind his family’s troubles. With the swipe of a credit card, Jack flies his entire squad out to Vegas and assembles his very own Rat Pack. Together, they’ll rescue Jack’s mom, destroy a Vegas kingpin and secure Jack’s legacy on the Strip. 

Aces Wild shines brightest when it leans into its candy-coated noir sensibilities. With puzzles that lead the way to secret clubs, shadowy pink-haired figures, complicated plans for subterfuge and more, DeWitt creates a vibe that’s Spy Kids by way of Ocean’s Eleven in the best way possible. A few slightly too convenient deus ex machina moments, however, detract from some of the fun and prevent the novel from becoming an unqualified jackpot. 

Rat-a-tat dialogue and well-developed relationships between Jack and his friends offer more highlights. Lucky, a younger member of the group with an acid tongue and a NASA-level mind, is a particular joy to read. DeWitt seems wholly uninterested in big coming-out moments for Jack and his asexual crew, instead crafting a subplot centered on the mix of confusion and excitement that a crush on someone can bring. 

Aces Wild is a fast-paced exploration of the risks we take for the people we love. A gambler might even say that it’s a lesson in when to fold ’em and when to hold ’em.

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Aces Wild

Aces Wild

By Amanda DeWitt
Peachtree Teen
ISBN 9781682634660

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