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How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater
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How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater (Edward Zanni #1)

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  3,436 Ratings  ·  421 Reviews
A deliciously funny romp of a novel about one overly theatrical and sexually confused New Jersey teenager’s larcenous quest for his acting school tuition

It’s 1983 in Wallingford, New Jersey, a sleepy bedroom community outside of Manhattan. Seventeen-year-old Edward Zanni, a feckless Ferris Bueller–type, is Peter Panning his way through a carefree summer of magic and mischi
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 7th 2004 by Crown Publishing Group (first published January 1st 2004)
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4,5 stars!



Have you seen Project X? No, this book doesn't have a lot of in common with a movie Project X.
Except maybe an average age of the MCs.
Except maybe how I feel reading it!

This book cracked me up. I WAS ENTERTAINED!
Marc Acito made me laugh and his book left a smile on my face after I finished it.
It was a totally right choice. A perfect choice!

Jun 12, 2007 Punk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
Fiction. It's 1983 (though you really can't tell except for how Reagan's in office) and Edward Zanni's on top of the world. It's the summer before his senior year, he's been accepted to Juilliard, and life just couldn't be better, but everything screeches to a halt when Edward's father tells him he's not paying for his son to go to acting school. So Edward and his friends pull together and make a plan. The title pretty much says it all: nerd power, capers, sexual experimentation, con artists, an ...more
I like the narration SO MUCH that I can ignore the insane things going on in the book. It felt fresh and wise and so so funny. It was one of the best books I've read recently, my only complaint would be that (view spoiler)
Alissa Bach
Absolutely one of the funniest books I've read to date. Gordon Korman meets Ferris Bueller in a story where the characters get caught up in a hilarious and crazy-wacky scheme that totally snoballs out of control, beyond anything they can imagine.

It is the mid-80s, and all 17-year-old Edward wants is to enroll in the drama program at Julliard. But when his father remarries the most psycho of psycho step-mothers, Edward gets kicked out of the house and learns he can kiss his college plans goodbye.
Becca Becca
This book started off pretty good and entertaining but then it went downhill and the plot and storyline got too unbelievable and out of control. I would have enjoyed just reading about the lives and antics of several "play people" high school students. I didn't need all the stuff about money laundering and blackmail.

I ended up kind of skimming the last 100 pages. I did enjoy a lot of the musical theater, pop culture references and it was a fluffy enough read for what I was in the mood for (I ne
Jun 13, 2012 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love me a good gay catcher in the rye story anyday
Clif Hostetler
Jan 30, 2008 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Theater geeks of all ages will enjoy this coming-of-age novel. Even non-theater geeks like myself can enjoy it. It's the funniest book I can remember listening to in a long time. One word of warning advice to young people who read this book. Don't try these things at home (in real life). This is fiction with a happy ending. Real life doesn't always work out that way.

I've heard it said that great works of literature speak to each other. Toward the end of this book there is an example of "not-so-
Sep 02, 2011 Renata rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, ya
UHH I really thought I would like this book because I like books about precocious teens and theatre and stuff, but this book was just like, insane. I felt like it was trying too hard to be edgy or whatever and just ended up being absurdly unrealistic. And Edward, the protagonist, was basically unlikeable. I get that he was supposed to be an insecure, self-absorbed teenager but like... damn was he ever. Also, this book was way long and slow-moving. Next time I want to read about self-aware theatr ...more
Aug 22, 2015 Tim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't care for this for a number of reasons I don't care to specify. Is that redundant? 0 of 10 stars
Dec 09, 2011 Dannyelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious!! Every theatre person needs to read these books because we have these friends!!
May 08, 2012 Armchair rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-my-type
This novel gave me a nightmare about being forced to ride through the Napa hills in the lap of a closeted gay teenage boy driving a motorcycle as his mass of shiny black curls flowed in the breeze. He wouldn’t let me off the motorcycle. I wish I were kidding.

My overall impression of this novel is that it was both aimless and horrifying. There is not a scruple to be found amongst the main characters of this cynical, oversexed ode to theater life in 1983 suburban New Jersey.

Edward Zanni is a large
Laala Alghata
Dec 02, 2010 Laala Alghata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I put on my new glasses to heighten the effect. The glasses have a sort of pinkish tint to them that bathes everything I see in a rosy glow, and I’m pleased with myself for buying something that doesn’t necessarily make me look good to the world (they are a little faggy, I guess) but which makes the world look good to me instead.” — Marc Acito, How I Paid For College

Let me say this from the get-go: if Philippa hadn’t handed me this book, I wouldn’t have ever picked it up; if she hadn’t then hov
Nov 12, 2009 Meryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My sister half-read this book but was raving about how funny and awesome it was so I had to read it, too. Plus, the cover is lovely and eye-catching.

I liked the GLBTness of it and the humor. Wow, the comdey of this novel was perfect and the whole thing was paced well and just great! I liked how it took place in the '80s (and you could just tell that from page one, come one people) and the great knowledge of the theatre (musicals, plays, etc. you know).

But for some reason I couldn't concentrate o
Aug 22, 2008 Chloe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chloe by: Jen
Edward Zanni seems to have it made: he rules the roost at his high school's drama department, has a very important audition for Juilliard coming soon and more potential lovers than seems right for a boy of his doughy physique. To cadge a line from Gypsy Lee, "everything's coming up roses" for young Ed. Until, in delightful Disney fashion, his yuppie father marries a Bavarian ice princess who makes Snow White's evil stepmother look like the poster-parent of foster care. Soon Edward is cut off fin ...more
Edward Zanni, seventeen, wants to study acting at Julliard. It’s been his plan for as long as he can remember. But, his dad throws a wrench in the works when he announces that he’s not going to pay for college unless Edward goes to business school. Thus begins Edward’s year of insanity as he scrambles to find a way to pay for Julliard. Throw in some crazy money-making schemes (Edward can’t seem to hold onto a real job for more than a few days) involving theft, money-laundering, a Catholic Vigila ...more
Jan 09, 2010 KJ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
I actually got this book on tape from my library's tiny selection. And I'm so glad I listened to it on tape as the actor doing the voices did a great job and it was HILARIOUS with the various New Jersey/east coast accents. The only reason I didn't give it a four is because the main character is so completely self absorbed. He's ungrateful to people who are risking everything for him and he gets angry at them when their plans to help him don't work out, etc. He's the definition of a spoiled brat. ...more
Apr 10, 2009 Jessi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brain-candy
Back in the December ice storm when we were taking refuge at todd and kevin's house I plucked this at random from Kevin's bookshelf and got sucked in to the offbeat story and hilarious cast of characters. It is basically a really funny story about an elaborate embezzlement plot carried out by a misfit high school senior and his crazy crew of friends to figure out how to pay for his first semester at Juliard that involves a lawn Buddha, embezzling funds previously embezzled by an evil step-mother ...more
Kirsty (alkalinekiwi)
This caught my eye at a library booksale where all the books were marked down to 20c. I remember adding it to the towering pile of books in my arms and a startled employee running to get me a trolley should the whole thing topple over and knock someone out under several kilograms of books.

I loved this book and would give it 4.5 stars if I could. From the start I was gripped and it helped me ignore the pain from my swollen post-surgery face.
Edward and his friends' schemes and plans were nothing
Sep 22, 2009 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think that the subtitle really sums up this funny book, which may or may not be loosely based on the author's teen years. It is full of ridiculous things, a series of almost anecdotes tied together. Teens do not, as a rule, drug people and take sexually suggestive pictures in order to blackmail them to get money for Julliard. They do, of course, deal with sex. They also play silly pranks and deal with horrible parents and stepparents. There are so many serious and emotionally draining moments ...more
Jul 15, 2015 Sunday rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xown, goodreads
This book was more engaging than any other book I've read in the past few years.

It does indeed include sex, theft, and musical theatre (along with drugs and blackmail) which is probably what made it so great.

Well, topic-wise, that's what made it so great. Also great about it is the author trusting the reader to get (or not get) the jokes. There's no immediate explanation, which I appreciate.

This book is scandalous, but I loved it. I'm concerned that it may be too in-depth for YAs (LOTS of sexy s
Glee crossed with Ferris Bueller with a bit of Queer as Folk thrown in the mix, with the end result being more suited for HBO than for FOX.

How I Paid for College delivers everything it promises in the title as it follows Edward Zanni, class of 1984, through his senior year as he scrambles to get accepted to and then pay for Julliard after his newly remarried father refuses.

It's a fun romp, told entirely through Edward's overdramatic teenage eyes.

Note: This is about teenagers and would probabl
Forever Young Adult
Graded By: Brian
Cover Story: You Too Can Ace the SAT Test!
Drinking Buddy: Stranded at the Velvet Rope
Testosterone Level: Insert Generic History of the World, Part I Sex Pun Here
Talky Talk: And Opie Taylor Grew Up to be a Drag Queen
Bonus Factors: LGBT, 1984, Big is Beautiful, I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up
Bromance Status: That Idealized Bunch of High School Friends

Read the full book report here.
Aug 30, 2016 Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, humor, geeky-fun
“How I Paid for College” is a funny (if sometimes awkward) coming of age story. The characters are ridiculous and ridiculously fun. The plot is ridiculous, sometimes funny and sometimes heartfelt. Looking at the story as a whole I thought it was a lot of fun. If you read Tim Dorsey or Carl Hiaasen, I think you’ll really like this story. Well written and interesting I’m sure all read more from this author if it’s like this.
John Miller
Apr 03, 2010 John Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marc Acito is a riot. He is relentlessly witty to the point of inciting bursts of laughter in public places. In this socially awkward - yet inspiring - teenage journey to college, it is quite likely that you will be able to relate to someone in this eclectic montage of characters and events. In the unlikely event that you do not, be ready to live vicariously for 288 pages that will certainly leave you with a smile.
Nikki Boisture
Jan 07, 2008 Nikki Boisture rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book just cracked me up. It is a very funny look at a Jersey boy who is a star in his school plays. His father refuses to pay for college if he decides to go to Julliard rather than business school. This novel follows the main character, Edward and his band of misfit friends (plus the school's football star) in their quest to get the money for Edward to go to Julliard by any means necessary. Including fraud and blackmail.

This book should be made into a movie!
Jul 22, 2008 Letitia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really hilarious, really dirty, really familiar. I'm not sure if this novel will hold the same hilarity for others as it does for me, seeing as how I live in New Jersey, my husband is in theatre, and I recognize all the characters and places that he discusses. I would think for anyone remotely associated with theatre, this would certainly be an enjoyable read.
May 19, 2012 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a funny, funny, well-written book. Can't wait to read more of Marc Acito's work. My only complaint is Edward's constant dithering back and forth over his sexuality. I found myself wanting to shake him and say, "Pick something, damn it !"
Kanda Faye
May 05, 2013 Kanda Faye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the funniest book I have ever read! Though the writing style was not my taste, I very much enjoyed reading this.
Jun 12, 2008 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I truly enjoyed this book. A great tale about a boy in the early 1980s trying to get into and pay for the college of his dreams. Very funny and heartfelt.
Sunil Jawahir
One of the funniest books I've ever read. Loved these characters and definitely recommend on audio!
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Book review 1 14 Jul 29, 2008 04:17PM  
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For those who do not know me, I'm very famous. My debut novel, How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater won the Oregon Book Awards' Ken Kesey Award for the Novel although I sometimes leave out the Oregon part to make it sound more important. It was also selected as a Top Ten Teen Pick by the American Library Association, though it still has not achieved my ulti ...more
More about Marc Acito...

Other Books in the Series

Edward Zanni (2 books)
  • Attack of the Theater People (Edward Zanni, #2)

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“So I kept reading, just to stay alive. In fact, I'd read two or three books at the same time, so I wouldn't finish one without being in the middle of another -- anything to stop me from falling into the big, gaping void. You see, books fill the empty spaces. If I'm waiting for a bus, or am eating alone, I can always rely on a book to keep me company. Sometimes I think I like them even more than people. People will let you down in life. They'll disappoint you and hurt you and betray you. But not books. They're better than life.” 78 likes
“There are moments in your life when you see yourself through someone else’s eyes, when your only hope of believing you’re capable of doing something is because someone else believes it for you.” 21 likes
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