Celeste_pewter's Reviews > How to Lead a Life of Crime

How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
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Feb 25, 13

Read from February 24 to 25, 2013 — I own a copy

Two-second recap: This book is not what it seems. You may go into Miller's book expecting an Ocean's 11-style caper, but the actual book is far darker, far more disturbing and ultimately, far more rewarding.

***

Full review:

When I first read the synopsis for How to Lead a Life of Crime, I expected that the book would end up something along the lines of Ocean's 11 or Ally Carter's Heist Society series - a light, breezy jaunt through the criminal underworld.

However, after actually picking up How to Lead a Life of Crime, I quickly realized that the book is none of these things. Instead, it's a dark, twisted, cynical look at what some people believes it takes to succeed in society. It's the type of book where you read it and shudder, hoping that the young adults in your life will never experience the things that Miller's intrepid hero and heroine experience. It's the type of book that honestly makes it hard to sleep at night, after reading it.

And it's the type of book that you close with a sigh, because you realize that 1) Miller has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the YA genre is producing some of the highest quality work in publishing these days, and 2) there is no way in hell you will ever be able to write something this fantastic.

(Okay - the second issue is largely for me. But you get my point).

***

Plot overview:

Flick is from a prominent east coast family, but has spent the last year or so, living rough on the streets of New York City.

He's running - both from his past as a rich private school/military school kid, but also from his family. There are secrets in his past, which he wants to avoid coming out into the open, if at all possible.

As part of his arsenal of tools for living on the street, Flick becomes an accomplished pickpocket. During the course of his "extracurricular" activities, he crosses paths with Lucian Mandel, the head of the acclaimed Mandel Academy.

Flick is recruited into the Academy, with promises of seeking revenge on the one member of his family that he's running from. However, what Flick initially assumes is a rich private school, turns out to be a training ground for the next generation of young criminals.

In a place where every move is monitored and scrutinized, can Flick survive?

***

Things that worked:

* This book is dark from the get-go. It's a complete change from most of the criminally-inclined YA books out there, which immediately makes it a refreshing change.

* Our main male protagonist is brutally honest. He's blunt, harsh and sometimes does unlikable things. However, all of this just makes him more likable to the reader, specially once we figure out his full motivation for behaving the way that he does.

* The flashbacks. Flashbacks or "dreams" are frequently used in this book, and to great success. I can't elaborate more without spoiling a major plot point, but it's one of the best utilizations of flashbacks that I've ever seen.

* The female characters in this book are not wilting flowers by any stretch of the imagination. There are two/three major female characters in this book, and they are almost fierce and awesome.

* The plotting. Kirsten Miller keeps amping up the stakes for her characters, including one semi red-herring. I was riveted for the entirety of the book - and it's a long book for the YA genre.

* The writing. Miller is one of those writers who does first-person, present tense very, very well. I would put her right up there with Libba Bray, another author who does first-person/present-tense well.

***

What didn't work:

* This is one of those rare occasions where I'm disappointed that a book doesn't have a planned sequel. I wanted more about Flick's story. I felt that there could be more about their post *major event* life.

* I'm probably showing my age by saying this, but I was a wee bit shocked at some of the sexual content in this book. It seemed a little too mature for YA. However, we are dealing with the worse elements of the criminal underworld, so it's fitting!

I guess we could say that this should be more an FYI, than something that didn't work!



***

Final verdict:

How to Lead a Life of Crime is a suspenseful, dark book which will keep you riveted from beginning to end. Miller has shown that she's a master with this book, and it is definitely one of the best things she's ever written.

Recommend for fans of Libba Bray (especially fans of The Diviners, and the Wells brothers.
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Reading Progress

02/24/2013 page 163
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