Aces Up

Aces Up

by Lauren Barnholdt


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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 fun, sexy, recession-proof story is a bubbly summer read with surprising depth—great for fans of Sarah Mlynowski.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385738743
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 08/10/2010
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 8.22(w) x 11.04(h) x 0.64(d)
Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Lauren Barnholdt is the author of many books for teens and tweens, including Two-Way Street and The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney. She lives in Boston with her husband. Visit her Web site at and say hello.

Read an Excerpt

I will not freak out, I will not freak out, I will not freak out. It is only a dress. A flimsy, totally stretchable piece of fabric. A flimsy, totally stretchable piece of fabric that will not budge over my hips, but still. Not a big deal. In fact, I’m sure things like this happen all the time. I’ll just march out of here, head into the office of my new boss, Adrienne, and calmly explain to her that the uniform they’ve given me just doesn’t fit.

I mean, I indicated on my application that I’m a size eight. And since they have somehow decided to give me a size two uniform, then really, they should be the ones apologizing to me. Isn’t that some sort of sizeism? (Sizeism = like racism, only against people who aren’t a size two or four.) They’ll probably be so nervous I’m going to sue them for discrimination that I’ll get some kind of bonus or something. You know, so that I’ll keep my mouth shut.

I start to pull the dress off, but before I can get out of it, someone knocks on the door to the dressing room in the employee lounge, where I’m huddled with the dress stuck halfway up my hips.

“Who’s in there?” a voice demands. A bossy, nasally, very loud voice. My boss, Adrienne.

“Um, it’s me,” I say. “Shannon.” My voice comes out all strangled, and I clear my throat and try to sound normal. Maybe I just need someone to zip me up? Or I need to lie down on a bed somewhere, like I have to do when my jeans just come out of the dryer. Of course, there’s no bed in here, they wouldn’t put a bed in a dressing room, that would be a little ridiculous. And there’s definitely not enough room to lie down on the floor, but maybe if I angled myself a little better, I could lean back and then—


“Shannon!” I say, louder this time. Maybe the uniform is vanity-sized, and so their two is actually a six. Like they do at the Gap. I give the dress a good yank, and it creeps up a little further over my hips. Hmmm. I give it another tug, this time as hard as I can. Riiiiip. The sound of fabric tearing echoes through the dressing room as the side seam of the dress splits in two. Oops.

“What the hell was that?” More pounding. “There are customers waiting to be served!”

“Um, well,” I say, throwing my sweatshirt over my head and opening the door to the stall. My face is burning with embarrassment, and I’m sure there are two big red splotches on my cheeks. “The thing is,” I tell Adrienne, “I have a problem with my uniform. It doesn’t fit.” I hold up the shredded piece of fabric. “Or, um, it didn’t fit.” I give her a hopeful smile.

“You ripped it?” Adrienne asks, looking incredulous. She reaches out and fingers the material.

“Well, not on purpose, I would never do something like that on purpose.” She looks at me blankly. “I thought it was vanity sized,” I explain, still trying to stay positive.

“You tried to shove yourself into it, and you split it?”

“Well, not shove, exactly, it was more like . . . wedge.” Adrienne is a few years older than me, and very, very scary. She has short black hair with thick bangs, and a dark red mouth. She wears lots of eyeliner and I’m pretty sure her boobs are fake. At my interview last week, when she asked me why I wanted this job, I told her I loved interacting with people, and she laughed, like she thought I was joking. I totally wasn’t, but I did not want Adrienne to hate me and/or think I was going to cause any kind of trouble, so I laughed, too.

If she finds out I’m only seventeen, I will be fired immediately. You have to be twenty-one to work as a cocktail waitress at the Collosio Casino, but I really, really need this job. My dad got fired from his job four months ago, and if I don’t make my own money, there’s no way I’ll be able to go to Wellesley in the fall. And since I’ve already been accepted early admission, which means I’m not allowed to apply anywhere else, this is a bit of a problem. (I’m calling it a “bit of a problem” so that I don’t freak myself out too much. The truth is it’s a “bit of a problem” that has the potential to turn into a “really bad disaster.” No money for Wellesley = no college.) So I bought a fake ID from this guy named Chris Harmon, who’s in my fifth- period study hall, and here I am. Besides, I’ll be twenty-one soon. Well. In, like, four years.

“It was too small,” I say, holding the dress up in front of me, as if to demonstrate its too-small state. Adrienne’s making me nervous, and the lights overhead are beating down on me. I brush my long brown hair out of my face and hope I don’t start to sweat. “I am so, so sorry. I thought I marked down on my application that I’m a size eight, but apparently it ended up that—”

Adrienne sighs and rubs her temples, then looks at me like I’m a child she’s babysitting. She sets her pen down on her clipboard. “What time is it, Shannon?”

Um, is this a trick question? “Five o’clock?” I try.

“Right. And what happens at five o’clock?”

“I start work?”

“Right. And if you come into work not ready to start working, then what happens at five o’clock?”

“Um, I don’t start working?”


“I’m sorry,” I say again. “But I marked down on the application you gave me that I’m a size—”

Adrienne holds up a hand. “Look,” she says, her blue eyes narrowing. She smells like some kind of violet perfume. “Can you hang or not? Because there are a lot of girls who would kill for this job.” I’m not sure what “Can you hang?” means, but I have a feeling it’s to be answered in the affirmative and does not involve having a uniform situation on day one. Also, I’m very wary now that she’s said “There are a lot of girls who would kill for this job.” That’s what they kept telling Anne Hathaway’s character in the movie The Devil Wears Prada. And things did not go so well for her.

“Yes,” I say, squaring my shoulders and trying to look shocked, as if I can’t believe she’s asked such an insane question. I roll my eyes. “Of course. Of course I can hang.” For ten dollars an hour plus tips, I can definitely hang. One hundred percent hanging.

“Then go get another uniform from the uniform closet,” Adrienne says, pointing toward a door on the other side of the room. She snatches the ruined uniform out of my hands. “This one will have to come out of your paycheck. And then get back here and we’ll get you started on your training.” She waves her hand and her black-tipped acrylic fingernails, dismissing me.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m in my new uniform (fits, but makes me look like a sausage—stretchy black fabric, a gathered waist, and a built-in bra that pushes your boobs together is not a good look for anyone), standing in the bar area with Mackenzie.

Mackenzie is the waitress who’s training me. She looks like a Miss Hawaiian Tropic and definitely does not have a problem zipping up her uniform.

“Basically the tips are all you want to worry about,” she’s saying. “You want to take as many drink orders as possible, and get the drinks out as fast as possible.”

She flips her long blond hair over her shoulder. I’m shadowing her, which, as far as I can tell, basically means I’m going to follow her around the casino all night, watching what she does. For this, I will earn my ten dollars an hour, with no tips.

But whatevs. I’m all about the big picture. Once I get the hang of it, I’ll be out on my own, and then I’m sure I’ll be making tons.

“Right,” I say. I work on practicing what I learned from The Secret, that book that says whatever you think will actually become your reality, and conjure up an image of myself at Wellesley, walking on campus with a bag full of newly purchased schoolbooks in one hand and a grande peppermint latte in the other. Feeling cheered by my mental picture, I pull a tiny gray notebook out of my pocket and write, “as many drinks as possible, make them come out fast.”

Customer Reviews

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Aces Up 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At the beginning i must say, i was in love with this book. the whole time i just wanted shannon to end up with Cole and forget about max, but that didn't happen for awhie in the book and by the time it did their relationship quickly ended. the book was good. i felt like it was the book version of the movie 21 but with slightly different characters. overall i liked it, but i wouldnt buy it if i could do it over again. hope you found this helpful :)
thehidingspot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
ACES UP was my introduction to Lauren Barnholdt and her writing, and I must say, it was a great first impression. Despite the fact that I know nearly nothing about poker and the colorful world of gambling, I found it remarkably easy to identify with Shannon. It wasn't so much the fast, faintly sinister world she found herself in that I found intriguing, but the reason she felt she needed to venture there. Shannon's family has fallen on hard economic times and they've had to give up many extraneous expenses. The one thing Shannon refuses to give up is her dream to attend her Wellesley after she completes her senior year. Shannon must decide is the money and the guarantee of being able to afford Wellesley worth the risk. And the risk is huge. It isn't hard to put myself in Shannon's shoes... I think the majority of college and college bound students will empathize with her fear and stress. It's insanely difficult to pay for school today. Students are often told that if they work hard, get good grades, etc, etc, everything will be fine. Shannon's story is very true to life: sometimes, everything isn't fine. The novel primarily focuses on Shannon, but she also has a sister who is also struggling to pay for college as well. The difference between the two, is that her sister doesn't attempt any get rich quick schemes, illegal or otherwise, but instead, continues to work hard and remains positive. I liked that the reader was able to compare the vastly different paths each sister chose.The one element of the novel that I wasn't completely sold on was the romantic bits. I felt more of a connection to the boy Shannon wasn't supposed to fall for than the one she did, which made for a lackluster response. The story's resolution may have been idealized. Shannon does, of course, learn her lesson and the story ends, more or less, happily. But many are or will be facing a similar situation and I think that ACES UP will guide them. Yes, we are all free to make our own decisions, but there is comfort in picking up a novel where the main character is in a similar situation. Even if the reader's situation isn't identical to Shannon's, it still serves as a reminder that no matter how good that "bad" choice may seem, it's in one's best interest to veer toward the "good."
ctmsolgi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt is a poker playing love story. All Shannon Card wants to do is attend Wellesley College in the following fall for collage classes. However, her dad just lost his job and her mom is already doing two jobs to help pay for her sister, Robyn¿s collage classes. Shannon will do anything to earn money, even if that includes using a fake ID and fake birth certificate to get a waitressing job at the casino, which leads to her joining a private poker club, Aces Up. But will she go to far to lie to her parents twice, hook up with the leader of Aces Up and let her grades slip? All the while still trying to become friends again with Max from him not kissing her last summer. This book isn¿t my favorite,but it is still very good. The lesson Lauren Barnholdt teaches the reader is a very strong one; ¿ There are no shortcuts to achieving what you want.¿ I think she definitely gets this lesson across to every reader because she comes right out and says it, whichi s a very good thing because every one should learn it. My favorite thing about this book is it is a simple chick-flick romance that all the girls would love. You get trapped into the character¿s feelings towards one another and it melts your heart. What I really do not like about it, the author wrote way too much about what Shannon Card was thinking in her head. On every page it felt like half of it was just what she was thinking. It was written way too much to a point it got annoying and it took down my rating to a 3.5 instead of a 4.5. Despite the talking in the head, it is till a good romance book.
ylin.0621 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Shannon Card (yup her last name is Card and this is a book about Poker) is forced to get a job to pay for college, she gets an invitation to join Aces Up. Getting a fake ID and a fake birth certificate is one thing to get a waitressing job at a casino, it is another thing to pay a game of poker with stakes as high as thirteen million dollars.How do you review a book where you have no reaction after finishing the book? Tell me because I have no clue how so I am just going to babble on about Aces Up. The biggest confusion I have of this novel is the takeaway or just the feeling I¿m left with after the novel. I don¿t exactly feel relieved, elated, or any of the positive energies. Ehhhh. Then there is the whole moral of the story: ¿Cheaters never win¿¿okay.I feel as though I am not giving credit where credit is due. The solid framework was there, but the execution felt like dipping your toe into the pool and not plunging yourself in. I hesitate over Max and Shannon¿best friends turned crushes turned awkwardness¿that made me think of second helpings or leftovers. I needed more exaggeration with the inner turmoil to be sympathizing to Shannon. I got tired of the secondary characters because frankly I don¿t know what to think of them. The ending was rather appropriate and realistic, but had that extra layer of cheese that made me roll my eyes.For now I¿ll leave it as a big ? with Aces Up.
ericajsc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the things I like about reading Lauren Barnholdt¿s books is that there is usually at least one point in the book when I think, ¿How did she get inside my head?¿ Though this book wasn¿t a disappointment by any means, I just didn¿t feel that connection this time. While I empathized with Shannon¿s dilemma of needing money for college, I can¿t say that there was ever a moment when I thought she got involved with Aces Up and Cole because of the money. It always seemed to be about escaping her problems, and she came across as selfish and unwise. I mean, here¿s this girl who¿s supposed to be a genius and she¿s rationalizing letting her grades slip to make out with some guy all night? I get that people make bad choices, and bad choices create the conflict that propel stories forward, but I felt like I was cringing through most of the book waiting for that moment when she would finally hit rock bottom and realize she needed to fix the situation.Now, while there were many times when I wanted to slap some sense into Shannon, there were also moments about the book that I loved. These were mostly the flirting/romantic tension moments that peppered the story, but also the developing friendship between Shannon and a co-worker. Though I obviously had some problems with Shannon, Barnholdt¿s writing, as always, is fun to read. It feels as if it is a friend telling their story. And maybe that¿s why I had such a hard time watching Shannon make such dumb mistakes: because it felt like watching a friend give up everything good in life for something you know won¿t last.
Jessica5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With summer finally here, Aces Up is the perfect book to lay outside under the sun and read. It is a quick, charming read that really draws you in. Though it's not as good as Lauren Barnholdt's other books, the story line is unique to other books I've read, but it is very similar to the movie 21. Aside from that, I really liked Shannon and felt for her when things didn't end up going her way during the book. Her relationship with Cole was kind of weird, but I loved her fragile relationship with Max and how it wasn't even close to perfect, which many readers can relate to. Though the whole being-amazing-and-winning-tons-of-money blackjack was kind of hard to truly believe, Barnholdt made it up with the lovable characters and cute story. Aces Up was a pretty good read, but if I had to choose between Barnholdt's other books, I would say choose one of her other books first before picking this one up.
Euphoria13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shannon Card needs money and she needs it ASAP. With her early admission into her dream college, she's going to need more then Financial Aid and student grants to pay off the tuition. To make the situation worse, her father just got laid off from his job and the family is under a financial crisis. The story starts off on Shannon's first day at her job as a cocktail waitress in a Casino. Although working at the Casino will help Shannon make money, there is just one tiny little problem.She's a minor.Shannon thinks she can pull off being twenty-one and make enough money so she can quit before anyone realizes that she's seventeen. But hiding her age is the least of her worries, when she stumbles upon an invitation to join an underground poker society called Aces Up. With her math skills, she might be able to make some quick cash, and LOTS of it. Shannon meets Cole, the leader of Aces Up and soon finds herself caught in a web of lies.I enjoyed reading this story and this is actually the first book that I've read by Lauren Barnholdt. The writing was fast paced and comical. Shannon's character is a bit of a goof but I liked her. Before I read this book, I knew NOTHING about poker. I've always been curious about the card game and wanting to know what the HUGE buzz is about when it comes to playing the game. When I heard about this book from the Random Buzzers website, needless to say I was very curious about it. I've never encountered a YA book where Poker was the heart of the story. Having read the book, I have to admit that it really got me interested about Poker. I would love to learn more about the game and the strategies and hopefully be able to play a game or two. Of course I would not want be caught up in the situation that Shannon get's herself into!
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