The Pilfered Prize

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Artists can be some strange people, but in Augustus Rose’s The Readymade Thief, Marcel Duchamp is portrayed as an incredibly enigmatic artist, leaving a legacy and body of work eagerly embraced and replicated by an odd group of men in the current day whose actions greatly impact the life of a teenage girl.

Lee is a seventeen year old girl with a knack for stealing things. After taking the fall for the only real friend she had she gets sent to juvenile detention, which she manages to escape from. On her own on the streets of Philadelphia, Lee finds ways to survive, one of which being a place called the Crystal Castle, where many homeless children reside. It’s in the Crystal Castle that Lee is introduced to some men she begins to believe is responsible for the drugging and disappearances of children in the area. Having stolen a seemingly strange object she later learns is of keen interest to these men, Lee is rescued from them by Tomi, who shows her his art, the beauty of exploring abandoned buildings, and the secrets held beneath the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which both answers and raises questions about the item Lee stole and the men after her.

As someone who lives in Philadelphia, it was interesting to read about the city as it was presented within this story with its (accurately) vast differences from abandoned buildings to snug suburban homes. With a fair amount of intrigue built up around an intricate web of deceit and manipulation to drive Lee’s actions, which was quickly devoured, there were a lot of seemingly coincidental, circumstantial events that were conspiring together to influence her in particular ways, which felt a bit forced for the sake of incorporating the various threads of plot in the development of the overarching plot.

Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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