Nov 12, 2010

Review | Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt

Title: Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Publication: August 10, 2010 by Ember
Format: ARC
Source: ARC Tour
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old high school senior Shannon Card needs money. And lots of it. She's been admitted to Wellesley, but her dad just lost his job, and somehow she has to come up with a year of tuition herself. But Shannon's dream of making big bucks waitressing at the local casino, the Collosio, disappears faster than a gambler's lucky streak. Her boss is a tyrant, her coworker is nuts, and her chances of balancing a tray full of drinks while wearing high-heeled shoes are slim to none. Worse, time is running out, and Shannon hasn't made even half the money she'd hoped.

When Shannon receives a mysterious invitation to join Aces Up, a secret network of highly talented college poker players, at first she thinks No way. She has enough to worry about: keeping her job, winning the coveted math scholarship at school, and tutoring her secret crush, Max. But when Shannon musters up the nerve to kiss Max and he doesn't react at all, the allure of Aces Up and its sexy eighteen-year-old leader, Cole, is suddenly too powerful to ignore.

Soon Shannon's caught up in a web of lies and deceit that makes worrying about tuition money or a high school crush seem like kid stuff. Still, when the money's this good, is the fear of getting caught reason enough to fold?

Cover: I've seen two different covers for this book, and this is the one I had, and I can say I like it. I can tell it is a teenage girl trying to look older, so it portrays Shannon's character well.

Thoughts: I absolutely love playing cards, any kind of card game is my favorite game. From Texas Hold 'em to Go Fish, I am the first to shuffle the cards. So when I first heard of Aces Up, I knew I needed to get a hold of it. A YA novel about a secret Poker society? Sounds like my kind of book.

My expectations were a bit higher than they should have been, I must admit. I recently read and reviewed Two Way Street, another Barnholdt novel, and I wasn't too happy with her writing style or the way the characters sounded, so I shouldn't have expected much of a difference. But I had expected the protagonist to have a different "voice," yet I couldn't differentiate between the two. They were two different characters, but they sounded the same to me.

The plot is an interesting one and I thought it was a unique idea, just not really developed as I had hoped. Shannon has been accepted to the school of her dreams, but her father has lost his job and her scholarship isn't enough to pay off her first semesters tuition.
She manages to land herself a job at a casino, and even though she's underage, she find a way to get herself in and none the wiser. Hoping to make enough money to be able to pay for school, she never expects to meet Cole, he guarantees her lots of money, if she joins in on the secret poker society.

Shannon was a naive character and that bothered me. I didn't expect her to trust Cole so easily, but she did and I didn't want her to fall for him since he was obviously such a shady guy, but their relationship goes to a different level I didn't expect. She was sometimes annoying, but her personality was likable enough, and my interest in her poker playing skills kept my interest. The other characters, such as Max and Shannon's sister, were fun and I enjoyed their individual roles. They provided support for Shannon and they each had a different personality that I enjoyed.

There wasn't too many details about the actual game, no real explanation to how to play and how she was winning so well, so if you don't know how to play, it was sort of hard to really follow what was going on and you just assumed it's as easy as Shannon made it sound. I expected something with more detail on how they actually were winning so much, but it was all very vague and left me a little disappointed.

Overall, this is a quick, fun read. It contains some romance, lots of comedy and drama that keeps the story moving along. Although there is illegal gambling, underage drinking, and some possibly intense make out sessions, this books seems to steers towards younger YA readers. I recommend it if you are a fan of this authors writing, but I might not suggest it if you have not enjoyed her previous books, since this one is very similar.


  1. Oh so there are two covers! I've got to say though that I like the other one better. Anyway...I may get annoyed with Shannon, but I'd have to see it for myself. I do like that there's some comedy and romance and drama mixed in together. I really enjoyed Two Way Street, but thanks for giving a heads up! :) Fantastic review!

  2. Thanks for the honest review.

    I might check this one out.