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10:00 tonight at the water tower. Tell no one. -Chaos Club
When Max receives a mysterious invite from the untraceable, epic prank-pulling Chaos Club, he has to ask: why him? After all, he's Mr. 2.5 GPA, Mr. No Social Life. He's Just Max. And his favorite heist movies have taught him this situation calls for Rule #4: Be suspicious. But it's also his one shot to leave Just Max in the dust...
Yeah, not so much. Max and four fellow students-who also received invites-are standing on the newly defaced water tower when campus security "catches" them. Definitely a setup. And this time, Max has had enough. It's time for Rule #7: Always get payback.
Let the prank war begin.
Oceans 11 meets The Breakfast Club in this entertaining, fast-paced debut filled with pranks and cons that will keep readers on their toes, never sure who's pulling the strings or what's coming next.
About the Author
Kurt Dinan is a high school English teacher. He's had several short stories published, including one in 2010's The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife, three young sons, and baby girl. Don't Get Caught is his first novel.
Read an Excerpt
Rule #1 in any quality heist film is Don't get caught.
So I'm quiet as I slip out my bedroom window, cross the roof in the cool darkness, and drop from the garage onto the wet grass. Overhead, my parents' lights may be off for the night, but this is a terrible idea any way you look at it. It's stupid, irresponsible, and borderline suicidal. But I'm going anyway.
Blame every movie hero I idolize, blame Tami Cantor, blame Mr. Watson's stupid classroom banner. Blame whomever and whatever you want. This is poor decision making at its finest. But I'm still going.
I stay to the sidewalks because lurking in shadows would only make me look suspicious. In the shadows, I'm a potential burglar, but on the sidewalk, I'm just another sixteen-year-old kid out for a walk-"on my way to a friend's house, Officer" if I get stopped by the cops.
It's Heist Rule #2: Be cool.
Like, bank vault combination changed at the last minute? Be cool.
Someone on your crew double-crosses you? Be cool.
Security guards show up unexpectedly? Be cool.
It works for Vin Diesel stealing cars in The Fast and the Furious. It works for George Clooney robbing casinos in Ocean's Eleven. It works for Timothy Hutton on Leverage. Even John Travolta, back before he got all bloated, played it cool when the Russian mob wanted him dead in a movie called-wait for it-Be Cool.
So if it works for them, it has to work for me, right? You might as well just go ahead and add me to the list-Vin Diesel, George Clooney, Timothy Hutton, prebloat John Travolta, and Max Cobb: cool personified.
The only problem is "cool" and "Max Cobb" go together about as well as sharp knives and dull minds.
It's more like, three-day weekend coming up? Sit at home watching movies with my parents.
Score in the forty-ninth percentile on the ACT three times running? Scream into my pillow until I'm hoarse.
Be best known for passing out in front of the class in ninth grade? Contemplate fashioning the bedsheet into a Snoopy-themed noose.
Screw those people who say, "Be yourself." Being myself has only gotten me a stupid, boring life. So for once, I'm doing the opposite. Tonight, there's no Max Cobb or, as Tami Cantor called me, Just Max. As in "Oh, don't worry about him, that's just Max."
No, tonight I'm Not Max, which means keeping cool. I refuse to play it safe and turn back like Just Max begs me to. Instead, Not Max keeps a steady pace, forcing himself not to flinch at every passing car, his heart quickening when the lights of Asheville High School appear in the distance.
AHS is an ancient building that was constructed about the time Pangaea split to form the continents. If it weren't for the soccer, baseball, and football fields nearby, you'd think you were looking at a decaying mental institution, which I suppose all schools are in a way. My destination's the water tower sitting on the edge of school property. With its massive rusting legs stretching into the night sky, the tower's Asheville High-Home of the Golden Eagles can be seen by the entire town. I'm halfway across the soccer field, walking in the weird gray light of the full moon, when I catch movement out of the corner of my eye.
My heart almost explodes through my chest. It's a girl's voice, but I can't see whose.
"Max? Is that you?"
She's coming toward me now.
Screw Be cool.
I sprint away, running with no clear destination. I need gone, away from this stupid decision before something bad happens.
Not Max...what the hell was I thinking?
After only twenty feet, I'm panting like a two-pack-a-day smoker. I might as well be running in thick mud. So of course, slow ass that I am, whoever she is catches me. And not just catches me, but tackles me from behind, driving me to the soccer turf. Then I'm flipped over, flat on my back, and looking up into the face of Ellie Wick from my Introduction to Philosophy class. She's straddling my chest with her black spandex yoga pants and grinning as big as the moon.
"Hey, Max! You got an invitation too?" she says. "Isn't this awesome?"
Heist Rule #3: If questioned, be evasive.
Ellie's face pinches. "Maxwell Cobb, you know darn well why you're out here. It's the same reason I am."
"I don't know what you're talking about. I was just out for a walk."
Ellie pins my arms to the ground. She's freakishly strong for someone so small. "Here, I'll help you," she says. "Repeat after me. Say, ‘I'm here because of the Chaos Club, Ellie.' I'm not letting you up until you admit it."
You have to love a girl who considers chest-straddling a punishment.
You have to love it even more if that girl is Ellie Wick and you've liked her since seventh grade. But even if I'm all for Ellie staying on top of me all night, we have a ten o'clock date to keep, so I enjoy the contact for a few more seconds before saying, "Okay, I'm here because of the Chaos Club."
Inside, my hormones give me the finger.
"See how easy that was?" she says, standing up. "Come on, we don't want to be late. We're about to become a part of history."
As we start across the soccer field for the gate, I look at Ellie from the corner of my eye. With her blond hair and big green eyes, Ellie's as wholesome looking now in eleventh grade as she was back in middle school. Well, by now I don't mean now-now because Ellie certainly doesn't look wholesome at the moment. In fact, she looks lava hot. Black spandex tends to have that effect on me.
"So where was your invitation?" she says. "Mine was under my windshield wiper after school."
"Taped inside my locker," I say. I don't tell her that even with my name on the envelope, I double-checked the locker number to make sure it was actually mine.
"They really can get anywhere," Ellie says. "It's like they're ghosts. It's so awesome."
Awesome is the right word for the Chaos Club.
In just the last two years, the four-decade-old organization has:
1. Stacked tires all the way up the flagpole.
2. Filled a guidance counselor's entire office, floor to ceiling, with water balloons.
3. Hacked the district's website so anyone visiting was redirected to BarnYardLove.com.
4. Punished the school board for banning Slaughterhouse-Five by projecting pictures of them with Hitler moustaches on the scoreboard during the homecoming game.
There's even a website dedicated to documenting their pranks.
But making the Chaos Club even more awesome?
Its membership is anonymous.
Its movements are untraceable.
And no one's ever been caught.
So the big question is, why in the world was I, Max Cobb-Mr. 2.5 GPA, Mr. No Social Life, Mr. I'm So Lame the Career Interest Survey Recommended "Worker" As My Future Profession-chosen to receive an envelope with this message inside:
10:00 tonight at the water tower.
Tell no one.
I sure as hell don't know.
But I do know that as we cross the dark parking lot, Not Max is fifty yards from finding out.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Interesting characters and character development. Terrible cliffhanger, in the sense that I want to read more. Can’t wait for the sequel!
This book was a awesome book. I read it in under an hour and was sad it was over. I recommend it 100%. Have fun reading this book!!
This book is so much fun. I had a smile on my face the whole time. The plot is twisty and engaging. The voice is great. The writing is fantastic. And the exploration of the messiness of payback is A+.
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Teens will LOVE this book! Max is trying so hard to leave behind his forgettable personal of "Just Max." And so when he gets an invitation to join the Heist Club, he's all in. Except it was a joke. Just Max would hide in the corner. But New Max is determined to get revenge. Who hasn't felt invisible at times? Like they are the average of the average? We've all been Max at some point in our lives, and readers will connect with Max's desire to be MORE than he's been. The pranks are crazy, and the twists are surprising! You don't want to miss this book!.
“Don’t Get Caught” is hands-down one of the best young adult books I have ever read. It’s a nice break from the tragedy filled contemporary, fantasy, and dystopian genres. Max, the main character, is obsessed with heist films. He knows the list of heist movie rules with the same precision that Randy from “Scream” knows the rules of horror movies. When combined with an unlikely group of very different personalities all on a mission, he is able to put his skills to good use. All of the characters are well-developed and engaging, and all of them go beyond the normal teenage tropes. Think “The Breakfast Club” with a little less angst and a lot more humor. The plot is based around a prank war. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because much like heist films the beauty is in the twists, but I can say that this book had me literally laughing out loud. In fact, it was more of an embarrassing belly laugh that turned into snorts, hiccups, and ultimately choking. It really was that funny. There is also only a hint of romance, so those who find that “not their thing” will get a break from love triangles and the like. “Don’t Get Caught” is one of those rare books that will hold universal appeal. The target audience is high school and up, but almost every adult will also enjoy it, even if they are not necessarily fans of young adult books. If you like humor, you will probably like this. Also, if you have a reluctant reader in your life get this into their hands as soon as you possibly can. It’s the type of book that can help foster a lifetime love of reading. This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Don’t Get Caught is a fun read. Pranks, clueless school admins and crushes all combine for a genuinely good read. Max is an average guy, 2.5 GPA, not into parties, nothing special. So when he gets an invite to the exclusive and secret Chaos Club he wonders why. But then he thinks why not and heads off to the first meeting. Instead of the meeting, Max and four others walk into a set-up and get caught by campus security. Then, the gloves come off, and Max and the Water Tower 5 plan the ultimate prank revenge. Kurt Dinan crafted a fun tale with a lot of heart. The writing was fantastic and you really got to know who Max is and how he thinks. The pacing had a few bumps, as the prank sections went very quickly but the build-up was at times uneven, but this did not detract from the story as a whole. The world built was solid and the character interactions all fit well in the space crafted for them. I was surprised by the depth of emotion. A YA story about a prank war does not instantly make you think of emotions, but Don’t Get Caught had a nice emotional tie with the characters. Speaking of the characters, they were for the most part awesome. A few were not as solidly fleshed out as I would have liked but as a group they worked. There was only one scene that I really did not like. The group, through a prank, caused someone to make a life altering decision, and while that person was an distinctly awful, their actions did not quite rise to the level of having their whole life upended by a group of teens. That one section aside, I really enjoyed Don’t Get Caught. Don’t Get Caught had humor, drama and an unexpected depth. I really enjoyed Dinan’s writing and will put him on my list of YA authors to watch. I loved the unexpected ending so very much, but it felt open ended to me in a great way. As soon as I was finished reading it I went to Twitter to harass (in a nice way) Kurt Dinan to see if a sequel is on the horizon, and I am happy to report that there are ideas in place. I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This book had me at Ocean's 11. Or maybe it was at heist movies. Nope, make that 'always get payback'. So this book had a lot of things going for it. I knew I just had to read it. It's a great mix of humour and outrageous escapades, with a cast of realistic, if slightly crazy, teenage characters. When Max is invited to the water tower by the school's infamous Chaos Club he is happy to throw off his Just-Max, nobody role and do something a bit daring. But when he and the four other students told to meet there are set up and embarrassingly caught and then punished in front of the whole school, Max is determined to seek his revenge. And just like any good heist leader, Max needs a crew - and the four teens also caught in the first embarrassing prank setup prove to be excellent and willing conspirators. This is a fun and almost unbelievable book. The pranks in this book are pretty epic, and I'm just a little bit reluctant to put it in the school library for fear of what it might inspire the students to do. But I know they will love it. As a high-school teacher, Kurt Dinan obviously has plenty of experience with teenagers and it shows in the authentic teen voices in this book. The boys, Max and fellow pranksters Dave Wheeler and Tim Adleta, are such guys, with a near constant flow of eye-roll-worthy innuendos, sexual references and jokes. But the girls are not left out either, with Ellie and Kate, contributing their own epic pranks. As a group they are pretty scary. Max provides the narration, and he takes the sort-of leadership role in the group. But what Max sets in motion is a little more than he bargained for. As a result he struggles with the morality behind both what he and his friends are doing and why. Is it okay to stand up for something if your results are questionable, maybe even hurting others? These are the deeper issues lying underneath the jokes and ranks, as is issues of bullying, friendship, self-identity, trust, judging others and the eternal enmity of vice-principal Stranko. This is a fun book where cows on the school roof are just the beginning, and with that twist of an ending it will be interesting to see if there will be a second book. The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The beginning of the novel was hilarious; I don’t remember laughing this hard and this much over a novel in a long time. It wasn’t just the predicaments that the characters found themselves in but also the thoughts and the actions that were amusing and I couldn’t keep myself away from this novel. I loved the author’s writing style, it was smooth and carefree and the characters were individuals that I could relate to. I hoped that the humorous tone would continue throughout the whole novel but it wasn’t long before it began to take a more serious note as the characters in the novel began to look at their situation differently. Where it was all fun and games before, the characters began to add a personal note to their circumstances. Not everyone agreed on this new perspective and this created conflict within the group. I could see both angles, as everyone personalities are different and that comes into play here. It became a game, a twisted competition where there were losers and winners and there were some individuals who didn’t even know they were part of the game. It was a refreshing novel, clever and remarkable with lots of twists and surprises. There were times that I wanted more details and times that I thought the book was rushed but in the end, I thought the book was amazing and well executed. The Chaos Club, who is in it and what they do, remains totally anonymous. They get their message across by doing outrageous and outlandish pranks and have been doing so for many years. Max, Ellie, Wheeler, Malone and Adleta have each received an anonymous card from the Chaos Club. As they gather at the field, they each have hopes that this is their invitation to join this elite group. What a unique group of student, they were remarkably different from one another yet why were these five selected to meet on the field together? The group must perform a task, a mission and it is this first mission that binds them together forever. Climbing up the stairs of the water tower, the darkness consumes them. Making their way along the wall of the water tower, the can of spray paint rolls at their feet. The lights suddenly go on, the police bullhorn screams from below bellowing for them to descend, their eyes catching the writing that has transformed the tower’s face. They are busted for a crime that they have not committed. I really wanted to be a part of this novel, to travel inside and witness the events firsthand. These five students need to come together and decide on their next steps. Do they retaliate or do they walk away? They have to agree and decide. How can you retaliate on a group which is anonymous and can they walk away when the school knows of their crime? Their efforts were funny and some of them, painful. They were such great actors and actresses; I couldn’t quit laughing and their stories, what drama and creativity. This is definitely a great read for 2016 and a book I would recommend. I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest opinion.
This book was definitely a lot of fun to read. I pretty much chuckled most of the way through it with a few laugh out loud moments. These guys really pulled off some great pranks. I loved that the pranksters pranked the pranksters. Of course, this would not be so humorous in real life, but would make a great movie! Hollywood? Ha!! This is definitely a great YA book and I know adults will enjoy it's humor as well. That is, if they still remember their high school days. While the ending ends in a dare for senior year, I certainly hope there is a sequel, I'll be looking and hoping for one! Huge thanks to Sourcebooks and Net Galley for providing me a fun, entertaining and enjoyable read this evening in exchange for an honest review.
Most of the time, when a book is touted as ____ meets ____, I am disappointed at the result. Usually the story only holds the vaguest of resemblances to the well-known movies or books it's being compared to. In this case, however, the tagline of "Ocean's Eleven meets The Breakfast Club" is dead-on. Dinan's high school caper novel delivers all the intricate fun of Danny Ocean's schemes and all the self-revelatory teenage relationships of the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal, with all the heart of both. Max doesn't intend to turn the school on its ear when he and four other random students are framed for painting a lewd message on the school's water tower. But he and his new crew quickly determine that the Chaos Club - a long-standing and secretive group of pranksters - is behind it, and they use everything they've learned from a million heist movies to plot their revenge. Max wrestles with just who he wants to be - Just-Max, the guy who coasts along and stays out of trouble? Or Not-Max, the guy who shakes things up? Along the way, he has to reevaluate everything he knows about his friends, his family, and himself. All while pulling some pretty epic pranks.
When I started the book and got a few pages in, I already knew I was going to love it. Told from the perspective of Max, an average teen guy who loves heist movies, the writing was brilliant, humorous and entertaining right from the start; it also helped that Max is such a hilarious character to read through. So, the story goes like this – he and four others get set up, they seek revenge and to expose the Chaos Club by having a prank-off to lure them out. Along the way, shenanigans are gotten into, some ethics are questioned, there is a interesting twist towards the ending, and of course, lots of fun to be had. Truly, the book turned my mood around from exhausted to exuberant, something I really appreciated this week. The mystery of the story is not fully about the identity of the Chaos club, but what the next prank will be. Some were downright creative, while some were dangerously close to bullying. But I do get where they were coming from, being on the other side themselves they wanted to get payback. Things don’t get truly ugly but for some parts, I was genuinely afraid. Another great thing I loved about the plot was how each of the characters grew to be such good friends with each other, despite them all being such different people, and more importantly Max overcame his wrong ideas about the others. All I want to say in conclusion is that, I want more with this story! Received a free galley from Sourcebooks Fire, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
At Asheville High School there’s a special secret Club - the Chaos Club. It has been pulling pranks at the school for more than thirty years but no one seems to know just who is behind it. When Maxwell Cobb, Ellie Wick, Dave Wheeler, Kate Malone and Tim Adleta all receive invitation to go to the Club but to tell no one, that’s exactly what they do, only finding out the others have been invited when they reach the rendezvous. They’re not the ones you’d automatically assume would be members of such a group so they are suspicious about what’s happening and the motivation of the people inviting them…. When they discover it really all was a set up they decide to join forces and discover just who is in the Chaos Club and to reveal their identities to stop them playing pranks like this again. This is a laugh out loud, prank filled story as the disparate group of teens start to work together to a common goal. As they use their skills to help each other, they all become more confident and resilient, more prepared to speak up for themselves and others. As they endeavour to payback the Chaos Club, playing pranks of their own, get ready for surprises, pranks and laughs galore. It is a great read and the twists at the end are so shocking! Sorry, not going to tell any further spoilers here, you’ll just have to read it yourself to find out! This is a well written, riveting teen adventure with so many twists and turns it makes highly entertaining reading for those who are older, too. It poses some thought provoking questions regarding the moral and ethical implications of pranks, their purported purposes and effects on their victims which stay with the reader long after finishing the story. This is an incredible debut novel and I can’t wait to read more from this author in future - and I do hope that includes a sequel to this novel! Thanks to the publishers for inviting me read an ARC of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.