March 13, 2013

Title: How to Lead a Life of Crime

Author: Kirsten Miller

Published: February 21, 2013

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Pages: 358

Goodreads Summary: 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?

  •  Christina felt like this was a real page-turner and it’s for this reason that this novel is going on her second shelf.

**NOTE:** Christina received an eBook of this title from the publisher via Net Galley. However, that did not influence her review in any way.

Actual rating of 3.5 stars!

After reading the summary for this book on Goodreads, I immediately went in pursuit of trying to obtain an ARC. It sounded like such an amazingly unique premise (I was thinking Hogwarts on steroids.) and I was looking for something different. Luckily for me, the book was available on Net Galley, and after getting my approval email, I may have did a little jig and squee’d a bit. However, after diving into the story a bit, I realized that my journey through Flick’s story was about to be a lot heavier and significantly more complex that I ever would’ve imagined.

The Lowdown: After enduring a harsh upbringing at the hands of an abusive, narcissistic a**hat, Flick sets out on a mission to toughen himself up on the hard streets of New York, the same streets his dad once set upon where he learned to “man-up.” His sole purpose for doing this is to learn to be colder and stronger and smarter for the sake of revenge. You see, Flick had one good thing in his life and he believes that his brother Jude– who after having a childhood obsession with Peter Pan, becomes the imaginative figure in Flick’s subconscious– was murdered by their dad, and he wants to make the monster pay with a brutal beating. But after hearing tales of his dad’s achievements at the infamous Mandel Academy and suffering through numerous beatings as a child, Flick knows he has a lot of growing and living to do before he can take him on.

So, that’s where our story picks up. It’s on these streets that Flick learns to be fully reliant on himself. He learns to fight, to pick-pocket, and enough street smarts that he finally gets noticed by a man that can change his life. This man is later revealed as Lucian Mandel, current figurehead and sole heir to the Mandel Academy. Mandel makes Flick an offer he simply can’t refuse: enroll in the academy, learn the tricks of the trade, graduate and Mandel would give him the evidence that proves his dad killed his brother on a silver platter. Flick knows it sounds too good to be true, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and Flick realizes he’ll doing anything to stick it to his dad.

My Verdict: With well-rounded characters and an interesting setting with a scheming plot loaded with twists and turns until the very end, How to Lead a Life of Crime had me turning the pages as quickly as I could to find out how it all would end. Kirsten Miller wrote a dark and gritty story that takes you on a tale of ruthlessness- murder, trickery, corruption of the tallest order– and spits you out on the other side questioning if this book is fiction, a bit satire-ish, or based on some truth and logic that the government keeps under heavy lock and key.

I only had two major grievances with this novel. The first was how almost picture-perfect the ending felt after experiencing the rest of the novel that read with such an in-your-face malevolent tone. I’m not sure how it could have ended differently, but I’m just not certain that ending was the perfect fit either. The second matter was how a certain “f—ing” swear appeared throughout the whole “f—ing” novel. You can have the kids learn to manufacture and sell drugs, become pimps and corrupt politicians, kill them off for failing  and then show them how to cover up murder, but the actual “f—ing” word can’t appear in the “f—ing” text. I’m not even going to lie, it drove me “f—ing” insane, especially since the characters loved to use the words so much.

However, those two things aside, it was an entertaining novel that left me guessing until the very end.

♥ A very special thanks to Razorbill and Net Galley for providing me with a preview copy of this title.

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