Nikki Tate is not just a card player, she’s one of the best. She should be – she was taught by her father, an experienced Las Vegas gambler. But Nikki is underage and not able to sit in on the legal card games. But Las Vegas, there are plenty of backroom, illegal games and Nikki knows many of them. She’s looking to build up her bank account so when it’s time to head off to college, she’ll have the money the finally get out of the town that’s taken everything from her.
Her father has been sitting in jail on death row, accused and found guilty of murdering his best friend in a gambling dispute. But he’s maintained his innocence throughout the trial and incarceration and after five years in prison, new evidence comes to light and his conviction is overturned. He is released from prison, but the man who comes home is not the same man who was wrongfully convicted. He is now driven to learn who might have framed him, and why.
Although she’d prefer to stay focused on leaving Las Vegas, Nikki is drawn into her father’s vendetta. But whoever was behind this has already proven that they are willing to kill, putting both Nikki and her father in mortal danger.
I really like this kind of YA novel. It doesn’t pull any punches and the means of putting the YA main character in control of his/her own life is a contrived ‘accident’ in which his/her parents are killed. Not only is the story here unique, with the father going to jail, it addresses the mental changes a person would go through by being imprisoned.
The rough life that Nikki faces, is no different than that rough life we see in popular YA books like the Hunger Games series or the Divergent series, but Nikki’s life is rooted not in a fantasy world, but in a recognizable, ‘today, here and now’ world. And in keeping with the YA style, Nikki has to excel at something, making her unique, and here it is a skill at gambling/cards.
Like so many books, what makes this work are the characters. Nikki is a strong, believable young woman. She is easily someone that readers can relate to. She shows her weaknesses to her friends, who support her and encourage her. They are friends not because of her strengths but because of her character.
The ancillary characters are not quite as well defined but that’s mostly because don’t get a lot of their history. We get what we need to know about them for them to fulfill their supporting roles.
The card-playing is handled well and the gambling is never really glorified (although Nikki’s skills are).
Looking for a good book? For YA readers who aren’t interested in fantasy or post-apocalyptic, depressing fiction, or maybe just want to change things up, the mystery Overturned, by Lamar Giles is a really good read.
I receive a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Lamar Giles
hardcover, 352 pages