Published by Delacorte Press 2010
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?
This book caught my eye when Clover over at Fluttering Butterflies reviewed it as part of Love Month. She gave it a glowing review, and I bought myself a copy.
Shannon Card is a high school senior who has received early admission into Wellesley, the college of her dreams. Problem is, her dad just lost his job at the bank and her family didn't set up a college fund, so now she has no money for college. She decides to take a job at the Collosio Casino, using a fake ID and even a fake birth certificate. While working there, she meets Cole, who invites her to join a secret underground poker society called Aces Up, based on her excellent maths ability. At first she doesn't like it, but her job doesn't pay as well as she'd hoped, and when her feelings get hurt by her secret crush, Max, it's the last straw. She joins Aces Up, and soon gets caught up in something dangerous.
When I first heard about this book, I wanted to read it immediately. I've never read anything like this before, and I've never even heard how a game of poker works, let alone played an actual game. It all sounded very intriguing. Shannon is the average girl, apart from the fact that she has exceptional maths skills. I liked how she did what she had to do in order to get money for college and I see why she got the job at the casino because it paid a lot more than other jobs, but I just felt a bit uncomfortable with the fact that she had to work in a (quite frankly skanky) casino wearing a really tight outfit. She was, however, a likeable character with lots of ambition, and I liked that about her. I found Cole very alluring but shady. Yes, he was the mysterious type with the cocky grin and he's very good-looking. He knew how to get around things and get the things he wanted, and he was very good at manipulating people. However, Shannon still had common sense throughout the whole ordeal with Cole, which I really admired about her because she knew that he was essentially doing something illegal and things could get dangerous, and that being a part of Aces Up could put her early admission to college in jeopardy. But yes, she did go along with it because she needed the money, and that's where things really start getting interesting. I liked how Barnholdt managed to explain the fundamentals of poker and its complexity without making it seem boring. Barnholdt's descriptions of the game also helped add to the thrill Shannon was feeling while playing, and I felt the thrill along with her. Things start to go wrong towards the end of the book, and I loved how Barnholdt really managed to turn the tables (see what I did there?). It really picks up from there and I couldn't get enough of it. I don't know why, but the mood and some things that happened in the book kind of put me off the book a little bit. The book just didn't really stick with me as much as I thought it would; although, don't me get wrong, the story overall is great and the ending was sweet. For those reasons, I'm giving this book 3.5 stars.