How To Lead A Life of Crime

How To Lead A Life of Crime
Age Range
Release Date
February 21, 2013
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A Meth Dealer. A Prostitute. A Serial Killer.

Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called
prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young
criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to
graduate. The rest disappear.

Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel
recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick’s old flame.
They’ve been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will
they find a way to save each other—or will the school destroy them both?

Editor review

1 review
School For Teen Sociopaths
(Updated: February 26, 2013)
Overall rating
Writing Style
When I read the blurb for HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME, I was intrigued. A school for 'misfits' that trains them to be criminals. Only these teens are orphans and have serious 'issues' like Flick who is a pickpocket. Others are Meth-addicts, serial killers, and hackers. What the author does with this premise is guaranteed to pull the reader right in. This is one addictive read! I couldn't put this book down!

Think a modern day Oliver Twist meets an Academy for teen Sociopaths. Flick is recruited to the highly exclusive Mandel Academy and finds he needs to survive by his wits in order to stay alive. This is where the story has an almost Hunger Game flair going for it only former graduates are the ones who put bids on who will be the top of the class. There's three groups: The wolves(who are on the top), Androids(smart but not enough to be at the top), and Ghosts. Only the most ruthless graduate and become highly successful and rich. The others disappear.

The writing reminded me of a modern day Oliver Twist with orphans and wayward, trouble teens being given a chance to do something with themselves. Only in this case it's to turn them into ruthless individuals who become predators and destroy the weak links. Social Darwinism at it's worse!

The school is ruthless and the Mean Kids here make bullies from other schools look passive. Any kind of humanity is put to the test with the over all goal of making students self-serving and past feeling. Very scary.

It would have been so easy to paint Flick as a total hard, selfish protagonist. And at first he does come across this way. But the author peels back his tough exterior little by little to show how much Flick isn't like the others at Mandel Academy. His relationship with Joi shows his vulnerability and humanity. It's a fine line he walks. He can't let any 'weakness' show or else he knows he'll end up as a Ghost.

There's mystery, intrigue, suspense, and even hints of humanity. The director's idea that he can turn a person to a sociopath is chilling. This reminded me of when I was in college and worked with a group of emotionally challenged teens. I saw how if the odds were stacked against them and they'd never heard any kind of love or acceptance, they could indeed 'turn' out to be what others had already labeled them. Handel is calculating and a psychopath in his own way. Readers won't know who to exactly trust as there are reveals and twists throughout.

Well-written tale that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Fans of Ally Carter's HEIST SOCIETY will enjoy this twist on the whole idea of teen criminals.
Good Points
1. Intriguing premise
2. Think modern day Oliver Twist meets Academy of teen sociopaths
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How To Lead a Life of Crime
Title: How to Lead a Life of Crime
Author: Kirsten Miller
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Release Date: February 21st, 2013
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: I like the cover art but I feel they could have done more with the graffitti concept. It isn't something that would jump off the shelves for me. I do, however, really appreciate the quality of the physical copy. The slipcover paper is thick and has an almost gritty feel to it and I love that little surprise when I grab a book off the shelf and it feels different from everything else.

How to Lead a Life of Crime is not at all what I expected. Like many reviewers, I had anticipated that the author would approach this topic from a humorous point of view. Instead, we have a story that include some incredibly dark elements. Our main character, Flick, comes from an abusive household. He is living on the streets after the death of his younger brother, Jude. Flick is an accomplished pick pocket appears to be trying to prove something to himself. He is close to another homeless teen, Joi (pronounced Joey), who runs an unofficial shelter for kids but still keeps her, and all others, at arms length. Flick's greatest desire is revenge on his father, the man who beat him mercilessly and who, Flick believes, killed Jude in a fit of rage.

The story plays out at the prestigious Mandel Academy, a school that, on the outside, appears to be a safe haven for impoverished youth but, in actuality, is a prison that requires them to become predators to survive. The school intends to benefit from "saving" these children by putting their new found criminal skills to use in order to gain an even tighter stronghold on the resources of not only the country, but the entire world. Flick joins the school with the aim of surviving long enough to get intel on his father and then insure the man's destruction. What he doesn't count on is the horror and depravity that he will discover within the walls of the Academy.

How to Lead a Life of Crime features some really fantastic characters. Flick has some major flaws but is a kid that you can truly root for. He has had a horrific childhood and survived to become a very strong and independent teenager. I particularly enjoyed the hallucinations (possibly...) in which he saw his little brother as Peter Pan.

They add a mysterious element and a touch of whimsy to an otherwise very dark novel and they allowed a setting in which we could see how vulnerable Flick truly was. Despite how much I enjoyed Flick and despite all of the arguments to the contrary, he was a bit slow. It seems to take him a great deal of time to realize the depth of depravity of the headmaster of the school and the lengths to which he is willing to go to secure his position. And this, is where Joi comes in. Joi is, quite literally, a joy. Upon entering the school, she is able to see, very quickly, where the weak points are and how she can exploit them for her own aims. The change in character from her commune to the school is remarkable - suddenly, she is strong, independent and can kick some serious ass.

Her return to the story is a real turning point and I couldn't help waiting for a snappy 80's music montage as she cleaned house! I will admit, the background characters in the book were a bit static. Many of them blended together and I could never seem to remember which wolf was which, which, in the end, didn't appear to matter much.

The pacing in this book is fantastic. The first half builds on intrigue and is able to provide the reader with enough background on the school to understand its inner workings, without bogging us down with monologues. The second half is where the action really picks up. We have a great deal of plotting behind the scenes and lots of twists and turns. Just when you think you have the plot figured out, the entire world turns on its ear and you realize you have no idea what is going to happen. We are also allowed the chance to experience some major character growth, especially in Flick, and an overwhelming theme that, despite all appearances and stereotypes, everyone has value.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age: 15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Allusion to sex, no descriptions.
Violence: Attempted rape, Hand to Hand Combat, Kidnapping, Murder by very Violent Means, Mutilation of Corpses
Inappropriate Language: Bastard, Jesus, Faggot, Shit, Piss, Bitch, Douchebag
Substance Use/Abuse:Underage Drinking, Prescription Drug Abuse,
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