The last place you’d expect to find a team of criminals is at a prestigious Philadelphia prep school. But on a class trip to the U.S. Mint – which prints a million new coins every 30 minutes – an overlooked security flaw becomes far too tempting for a small group of students to ignore.
United by dire circumstances, these unlikely allies – the slacker, the nerd, the athlete, and the "perfect" student – band together to attempt the impossible: rob the U.S. Mint. The diverse crew is forced to confront their true beliefs about each other and themselves as they do the wrong thing for the right reasons.
Elisa Ludwig's Coin Heist is a fun, suspenseful, and compelling thriller, told from the revolving perspectives of four teens, each with their own motive for committing a crime that could change all of their lives for the better—if they can pull it off
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My debut young adult novel PRETTY CROOKED (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins) was released in March 2012, and the sequel, PRETTY SLY, is out in March 2014. COIN HEIST, a YA thriller, is out in June 2014 (Adaptive Studios). I live in Philadelphia with my husband and son.
Visit me on Twitter, Facebook, and my website
Visit me on Twitter, Facebook, and my website
Greg and I were in the cafeteria line, pulling foil-wrapped chicken sandwiches from under the heat lamps.
“I don’t think they have the right to call these things tenders,” Greg said as he peered under the bun, his acne glowing red from the light.
“Maybe toughers?” I suggested, poking mine, which had the texture of boiled rubber.
“We should start bringing our own,” he said.
I agreed. With all the cutbacks, the food was getting steadily more budget every day. Where once we had organic tuna pita pockets, we now had peanut butter and jelly. The milks were half the size and the salad bar bins were filled with canned vegetables.
“Well, I better run,” Greg said, gathering up the contents of his meal and heading for the cashier. “I told Mr. Jenkins I’d help him in the lab. After school?”
“Catch you later,” I said, inching down the line.
When I got to the drinks cooler, I noticed Jason was talking to the red-haired lunch lady. He was leaning over the metal rail and shaking his head.
“I’m so sorry,” I heard him saying, and he sounded really upset. “Look, I’ll see what I can find out, okay? Don’t panic. There’s got to be an answer.”
What was he sorry about? Even weirder was that he was talking to her like they were friends. She had to be fifty years old—she’d been working at HF since the beginning of time.
He pulled away from the rail just as I was sliding my tray along, so that we nearly collided. “Hey, Al,” he said.
It always took me aback when he used that nickname. Only my dad had ever called me that.
“Hey,” I said back, and we fell into step. I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly we were seeing each other every day. Talking, not just in Design class, but between classes. Even in the coffee bar during break—in full view of some of his exes. Which, to be fair, included most girls in our grade. Social math: In set theory there’s an axiom of pairing, which basically means that if a and b are sets then there’s a set out there that contains both a and b. By virtue of existing, they belong together somewhere. The same could be said of Jason and the list of girls he’d hooked up with.
It was strange. He’d started to appear in my brain even when I wasn’t with him. I thought about him as I showered and got dressed. And at night, when I finished my homework, I pictured him in his house, wondering what he might be doing. Which was completely crazy.
And when we talked, it wasn’t just about the Mint stuff anymore. He told me all about his band and his plans to dominate iTunes someday, and I couldn’t help but get caught up. I knew things about his family—his dad was still in jail, and his mom was making him go visit every week. I told him the latest about my parents, how my dad was even sneaking away on weekends now.
Now he was next to me and I felt my breath quicken. “So what was that about?” I asked, not wanting to be too nosy.
He sighed. “Dianne was just given a pink slip. Technically there’s a union of service employees, and technically they shouldn’t be able to just do that. But this is an extreme situation. It’s so messed up.”
“And you’re going to help her?”
He nodded. “I’m going to get some information from my dad’s office. See if there’s any way I can help.”
I’d never really seen this side of him before. “That’s actually pretty thoughtful.”
“You sound surprised,” he said.
Because you act like a bimbo sometimes? “So get this. My dad called Sheryl on the way to school today. He put her on speakerphone. They were using all of these euphemisms, like ‘low-hanging fruit’ and ‘looping each other in’ but it was so obvious and disgusting. He acts like I’m five years old.”
“Why don’t you just talk to him?” he asked me.
“Um. Why don’t you talk to your dad?” I came back.
“Because it won’t change anything.”
“Bingo,” I said.
When we talked like this, all the other stuff, all of his usual whatever-dude stuff fell away.
We sat down at the table and waited for Benny, for our official Mint job meeting to begin.
What started as a fantasy game, like D&D, had started to seem more plausible. We were planning the smallest details, right down to our alibis and how we’d get rid of our prints. I didn’t know what Benny thought, but the way Jason talked about it, it didn't seem like we were playing around anymore. It was like he needed to do this—to get back at his dad, or maybe to fix his dad’s mistakes.
And me? Well, for starters, the idea that I could make something this big happen was intoxicating. I was in it for the thrill, for the idea that I could actually pull off a hack this size and prove that I wasn’t some stupid kid. I’d show my dad and anyone else who doubted me.
There was only one problem. I still couldn’t figure out how the heck we were going to manufacture as many coins as we needed without anyone noticing all the missing raw material after the job was done . I’d been poking at the holes in our plan for a few days now, but only in my head. It was time to bring all my doubts out into the open.
I pulled my iPad out of my bag and laid it down on the table between us.
“So what have you got?” Jason asked.
I opened up a document I’d been keeping with notes from our meetings and some of my own research. It was encrypted, of course, for safekeeping. “I think we have a good handle on how we’ll get in, at least virtually.”
“Cracking into the production system?”
“Right. I’ve done some research and they use ManufactSure. It’s an off-the-shelf product they’ve customized for their own needs. I ran some demos of it at home, to see how it’s organized—inventory, orders, accounting, that kind of thing. Should be easy to navigate. Once we get the plug into the building, it’s just a matter of monitoring, really. But… that’s not the problem,” I said.
Benny emerged from the lunch line then, his tray filled with two chicken sandwiches, fries, three cookies, a yogurt, a banana and four milks. Football players. The guy’s calories in a single meal could support my whole household for a week.
“S’up,” he said, fitting his broad frame into the seat across from us.
“Al was just saying that there's a problem with the plan,” Jason said. Then he turned to me, his gaze intent. Those eyes. I felt something inside me flutter. “Go on.”
“Well, I’ve been running the calculations, and I just can’t see how we could get enough money out of it. Even if we punch out quarters, it will take twenty million of them just to rebuild the endowment.”
“So the floor produces sixteen million coins a day,” Benny said. “You’re worried
I nodded. “I just don’t see how we can reasonably take over production for that long without someone noticing. We need to do something in an hour or so, tops. In and out. Let alone the sheer amount of metal we'd need to use up to produce that many coins.”
“Huh,” Jason said, leaning back in his seat and chewing on a straw. “Well, that is a problem. And kind of a big one.”
Blech. Like I said, I’d been reluctant to mention this, even though it had been days since I figured it out. “Anyone have any suggestions?”
Jason pressed his fingers to his temples and closed his eyes as if he was reading something internally. “What if we just went for the materials? Maybe we could get the money if we sold the metal.”
“Even if we could, you saw how huge those coils were. No way we could get them out of the building without heavy machinery.” I sighed. “Benny?”
He shook his head. “I’ve got nothing.”
MY THOUGHTS: LOVED IT
MY THOUGHTS: LOVED IT
The Breakfast Club with a plan to steal!
What happens when your father embezzles your school's money and you become a pariah? You come up with a plan to repay the money by minting "error" coins at the Philly mint! Just a few of these coins, sold on the market, could be enough to repay the funds that Jason's dad has lost to day trading.
Four high schoolers are thrown together in a design class and visit the US Mint as part of their class. You have Alice, queen of the nerds, who hasn't met a math problem she couldn't solve. Jason, whose father is responsible for the financial downfall of the school and a bit of a rebel. Dakota, picture and paper perfect, but has several dark secrets and has some self esteem issues. And Benny, the star football kid and scholarship student who wants out of the crushing poverty he lives in. Each has their own reason to save the school, but these four unlikely friends overcome their inner voices to pull this off. Except they don't quite do it right or according to plan.
I really enjoyed this almost perfectly clean read. There is just a bit of language that is well placed, but nothing out of the ordinary. There is a bit of romance between Jason and Alice (the nerd who is actually unknowingly cute) and between Benny and Dakota. These four kids are from all opposite ends of the social spectrum and wouldn't normally have never come together. So yes, you get that special kiss at the perfect moment. There is just enough suspense to make your heart rush in parts, wondering if these kids can hack into the mint's computers and then actually steal the newly minted coins. I look forward to more from this author!
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