Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

How to Lead a Life of Crime

Rate this book
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?

434 pages, Hardcover

First published February 21, 2013

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Kirsten Miller

33 books1,790 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,173 (33%)
4 stars
1,314 (37%)
3 stars
708 (20%)
2 stars
226 (6%)
1 star
96 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 542 reviews
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,880 followers
October 27, 2014
First, a quick note: How to Lead a Life of Crime is among the most violent young adult novels I’ve ever read. If you enjoyed I Hunt Killers, for example, you’re likely to enjoy this too, but if the thought of YA books that contain murder, corporate crime, illegal drug trials, teenage prostitution, implied rape and even a severed head bothers you, then this is not a book for you.

Flick’s is one of the clearest voices I’ve come across in YA. He grabs your attention right from the first page and he never lets go. He is instantly likeable, despite being a small-time thief. Flick cares about two things in life: avenging his younger brother (which entails destroying their father, the murderer) and Joi, a girl he met on the streets. Because he loves Joi, he considers her his great weakness and knows he’ll have to abandon her as soon as he’s strong enough to confront his father. Flick is not your typical street kid; his family is obscenely rich, but Flick sees surviving on the streets as a way to toughen up enough to face the man who abused him all his life.

I never set out to be a thief. I suppose I once had something grander in mind. But when you live on the streets, you find out that your career options are limited. You can be one of the kids who disappear with the strangers who cruise cruise through every night. You can sell the stuff that helps those kids forget what they’ve seen. Or you can be a thief. If those choices don’t suit you, you can always be dead.

Once Flick agrees to go to Mandel Academy, hoping to find evidence against his father, he realizes it’s nothing like he expected. The school is full of kids with colorful pasts and nowhere else to go. Some of them are hackers, some skilled thieves, some are drug dealers and prostitutes and some are even serial killers. Most of them aren’t poor misunderstood individuals, no matter what we’d like to believe. They are cruel, they’re vicious and they’d do anything to survive. Mandel Academy breeds psychopaths and sociopaths and prepares them to be world leaders.

In the second part of How to Lead a Life of Crime, Miller strayed into more implausible territory, and the further she took things, the less enthusiastic I became. The plot suddenly became too big, far too over the top and while it was still bloody and wildly interesting, it paled in comparison to the realistic grittiness of the first half. Some of Flick’s outrageous confidence was also lost somewhere along the line, which meant that he wasn’t nearly as funny (or as endearing) as he was at the beginning.

If there’s one thing in this book I object to, it’s the censorship of swear words spoken by the characters, and somehow I don’t think it was the author’s choice. I am firmly against using asterisks or anything similar in their place. That’s not to say that I advocate excessive profanity in YA, but there are times when it’s expected. In this book, all the teens come straight from the streets. They are ex drug dealers, thieves and prostitutes. They will use swear words on occasion or they wouldn’t be very realistic, would they? What are we protecting our teens from, exactly? And can we really write something they haven’t already seen? If we replace every F-bomb with f---, what message are we sending, especially in this context? That severed heads are fine, but fuck isn’t?! I think that’s ridiculous and maybe a little bit sad.

I’d have preferred it if this book remained as realistic and unsettling as it was in those first one hundred pages, but even with the turn it took later on, it was a read I won’t easily forget.

Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
March 22, 2013
Actual rating: 4.5 stars, but what the hell? I'm rounding this baby up.

This is the first novel that I've read from this author and I have to say that I am very impressed. I don't usually seek out crime, mystery or thriller/suspense novels, but I'm really glad I had an opportunity to read this one. There aren't many books where I can say I have almost nothing to complain about. And even though I've finished the book weeks ago, I still have nothing but high praises for it. Simply put, How to Lead a Life of Crime had fantastic writing, realistic characters and old fashion, damn good plotting.

When I first read the blurb for this book, I'll admit to having pretty low expectations. I thought it would take on more of a humor angle, though I'm not exactly sure why I initially thought it would. The blurb took on a lot of serious topics that I thought, "Surely, this must be from a comic standpoint?" And I'd be wrong. But what I didn't expect was for Miller to take on a few major social issues and make them relevant to the teenage audience. And guys, she did this so well! First off, the main character is a guy and get this. HE SOUNDS LIKE A GUY. Not once did I feel like he was hiding ovaries from me. This made me rejoice because his authenticity, flaws, struggles, passions all felt so much more realistic to me. Flick is a character with very real problems. He's a homeless pickpocketer who was raised by an abusive, rich father. On the outside, it looked as though he had everything, but his entire life fell apart when both his mother and brother died. Flick blames his father and swears to one day make him pay. What happens afterwards is a plot so tightly woven, it made my head spin.

But back to the social issues: The backdrop of the story is about Mandel Academy. To average, everyday folk, the school is praised as one of the best schools a youngster can attend. All graduates attend the best colleges and get the highest paying jobs. It's a highly coveted school and secures futures for kids that may have otherwise not been allotted such a luxury. Or so that's the image painted. What Mandel Academy really hides is its shady ways of criminal activity. The school essentially molds these kids into a bunch of crazies that can be controlled and set into positions of power all over the world. The scary thing is... I could totally see this as a realistic possibility. Miller carefully planted the perfect "what if..." seed by way of her excellent world building. It's easy to expect a certain level of world building for fantasy novels, but it's equally important for contemporary since it's set in a setting that is relevant to you. I really think it was done perfectly here.

I mean, think about it. Politicians regularly are considered to be bought out by corporations or seemingly operating with someone else's interests in mind. Would it be so much of a stretch to think there could be a bigger organization at work here to keep the little people down? Influencing who gets voted into office? Approving and denying certain products and services? Am I starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist? Wait. Don't answer that last one. The point is: It was all believable. Maybe not as I'm trying to explain it, but as I read further and further, I started to think, "Wow. This could totally happen."

What I also loved were the side characters and how big of a role they played in the entirety of the novel. Miller had a running theme of "No one is worthless" and that certainly applied to how she herself chose to use all her characters. Like Flick, I had written off Joi as just the girl he left behind. I knew from the blurb she would make a reappearance. But I did not expect her to make a come back and kick so much ass in the process. The girl was viciously badass. I thought I loved Flick and how well he had the Academy figured out, but then Joi came along and stole the spotlight. It really gave Flick some well-needed vulnerability because for a while he started to feel as unstoppable as June and Day from Legend. (In fact, I'd highly recommend How to Lead a Life of Crime to Marie Lu fans.)

And then there is the villain. Like, whoa. I can't really go into so much detail because of spoilers, but it was very three-dimensional. Even in the end, the villain always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone. I can't say I didn't see it coming because it's slowly revealed to the reader as the novel goes on, but you never realize the extent of the crazy until the final chapters. Flick faces so many "demons" in this book that there were times I was unsure if he could do it. I was genuinely worried for his life and felt so invested that he'd be okay. Dare I say I was on the edge of my seat? The anticipation was built just right thanks to the perfect pacing and action packed quality.

If there is one and only complaint I have, it's that whenever the f-bomb is dropped it's cut out of the book and instead appears like "f---". I don't know if that is just the ARC I was reading or if the finished copy was the same way, but it did bother me a bit. But that is a relatively small negative in comparison to everything else this book does right.

The writing was excellent, the dialogue was smart and witty, the plot was air tight and the characters carefully planned. It's the novels that you aren't expecting that completely surprise you. How to Lead a Life of Crime is one of them. If it's not on your to-read list now, it should be.


Side note: Weirdly enough, the finished copy was compromised. Though it is unknown, someone altered passages and added typos. It's alluded that the book has enemies, which adds another level of creepiness given the book's premise. You can find out more about that here.

*Unsolicited ARC was provided by the publisher for an honest review. 

More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
August 31, 2015

"What takes more guts? To fight for your own life at any cost-or prove that you're willing to lose it?"

Well, well, well....I am so beyond happy. <<< Eew that sentence, but it's so true! Months ago, I read a series that I absolutely cherished, adored, obsessed over-I Hunt Killers. It took me a long time to get over my Jazz boy, and anyone that didn't grasp my level of obsession over him would have to have been blind or wholly disinterested. But what do you do when you can't make extra books appear out of thin air when your favorite series of the year ends? You find similar books.

I don't care about Ghosts or girls anymore. I don't give a damn about proof. This monster is just waiting for a chance to kill it's creator. One way or another, I'll get out. And then I'm going to destroy him.

But, as it was, when I started this, I couldn't stop thinking of my wonderful Jazzy boy. So, this was put on hold until I could get my head out of that world and I could focus on this one. My long winded story ends here, I promise-This weekend I couldn't get into my book, so I scoured my e-library and saw this beauty. It suited my mood, it reminded me of a favorite, had an addicting and compelling story, and it had an amazing male lead that had me rooting for him from beginning to end. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this book...but, in the end, it was a thrilling page turner that kept me on the edge of my seat.

 photo tumblr_n2wwesfGXh1s7mgnxo1_r1_500_zpskbauvs7c.gif

I would sacrifice almost anything to stay here with her. And that's exactly why I have to leave. She will keep me from becoming what I need to be. And if she tries to save me, I will end up destroying her.

And that's the best part-It wasn't extremely fast-paced, it wasn't action on each and every page, and it wasn't what you'd expect. But, with all that being said, it was so much better . It was chilling, intense, underhanded, and brutal in it's subtlety. I didn't need non-stop action, nor did I need millions of things to happen at once. This story was so manipulative and gripping that I never once was thinking about anything but what was happening in front of my face-that is so rare for me. I am always thinking to the next chapter, the next page, the next problem, but because this was so intense I was so worried for our main character that I only cared what was happening to him in the here and now.

I thought this time, I was willing to do anything. Now Mandel will know that it's all just an act. Because there's one thing that I will not do. Not even to save the world from a monster. I won't let Joi die.

I don't know what I was expecting when I went into this, but I never expected for it to have The Testing vibes mixed with an I Hunt Killers theme I so immensely craved. And, even more than that, it was sad. Our poor boy, who had lived an inexplicably sad and undeserved life, was hurting-and rightfully so. More than once my heart ached for him and was torn to shreds as he imagined his little brother right beside him, even though he never truly could be again.

I'm not a lost boy, and I'm too old for a Wendy. But I want to remember her once before I let her go. All I get is a faint whiff of jasmine before my dream's interrupted. And then the last person I'll love is gone for good.

I choked on tears, wished for a better life than what he got, and hoped for him to make it out of Mandel Academy alive....but that's hard to accomplish when you set out to make enemies.

Second period just started, and I already have five enemies, a pretty blond stalker, and zero friends. It's a record, even for me.

 photo tumblr_npfzd5T77S1upc437o1_500_zpsxyu1ivxq.gif

Flick (No, that's not his real name) is a thief, a boy so good at pick-pocketing on the streets that all it takes is a flick of his wrist and he has your license, your money, your life in his hands-clever, eh?? His humor is exactly what I love in these books. Thrown into a world he'd have never wanted after losing his mother and almost identical brother, the only two happy things in his life, and being beaten for the most minuscule things (I mean it-like, being beaten to a bloody pulp) by his father, Flick is what you could probably call a 'tortured' male lead.

When I was younger, I'd make Jude stand beside me in front of my mother's closet mirror. We looked so much alike. I couldn't see what the difference was-I couldn't understand how my father could love one of us and loathe the other.

So, when he is offered a chance to go to Mandel Academy in exchange for information that will help him take down his father, the reason for all the bad things in his life, he accepts....but at a price-he must leave Joi, his last happy thing, behind without a word or notice.

Suddenly I see the problem with Jude's brilliant advice. Be who you want to be, he said. Well, the person I'd like to be would save . But that would be dangerous. I could die trying-and there's only one of me to sacrifice.

I'll be quick-Joi is who makes him strive to be better, what keeps him from flipping his switch and turning into a monster. She helps anyone and everyone, never turning down even the most lost of souls, and she is a ray of sunshine in his-and many other children's-bleak world. But don't be mistaken-Joi can be a badass, too. But I don't want to spoil that for you ;).

Maybe he's not going to give me the choice to trade my life for hers. Maybe he's found another way to force me to watch the girl I love be destroyed.

 photo giphy 25_zpsfyttaclp.gif

All in all, I never expected much from this story. I didn't know where it was going or when the blurb would come into play-but I was never bored. And the minute the blurb does kick in? Wow. The things Flick has to do, the intense, multi-layered cast of CRAZY characters he has to encounter and go through....Wow. Keep your eye on a certain...yeah, never mind. Just watch out, 'K? It's never safe. Never trust anyone. And don't do anything you can't live with. This chilling cast of characters will make your head spin.....and I still am thinking about it, even a day after finishing.

This is how it feels to lose your last hope. To stop treading water. To unplug life support.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
descriptive text here

Profile Image for Mihir.
645 reviews295 followers
March 2, 2013

Full review originally at Fantasy Book Critic

Overall rating =2 & 1/2 stars

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: If you read the blurb to this book by Kirsten Miller, it becomes very hard not to be interested in it. The book beckoned me with oh-so-intriguing premise and so I got my hands on a copy and started reading immediately.

The story begins with a sly and street-smart teenager who is slumming in the seedier parts of New York City trying to toughen himself for a Herculean task that he has to accomplish. He goes by the moniker of Flick and is desperate to emulate his father to turn in to a hardened diamond. He hangs out with a girl named Joi who is a Mary Poppins figure and helps the meek among the runaways. He however leaves her when he gets an opportunity to join the Mandel academy for the gifted; this school is like the Hogwarts for people with nefarious talents with a major Hunger Games-like enforcement. He tries to gauge what the school principal’s angle is, in allowing him to join the academy and why he should strive to graduate. Flick is also wary as his brother Jude who appears to him as Peter Pan doesn’t want him to join but Flick decides to follow the path of moral ambivalence. This step thus allows him to do whatever is necessary to become crude and violent enough to do what he plans.

The next step amidst his plan is to find out the truth about Mandel academy, its alumnae and the path that leads to his final reckoning with his patriarch. Flick however doesn’t know the many pitfalls in passing out of Mandel academy and the many sacrifices he will have to give to steel his resolve. There are many surprises in store for the protagonist and the reader and is the final culmination of the tale that resolves all the mysteries that sprout within.

The best part of the story for me was the plot setting and the blurb, as the reader is introduced to this exciting and dark [YA level] story that showcases a world wherein the nefarious are being trained for the next level. As a reader, this is a tremendously cool setup and full points to the author for coming up with it. The next plus point for the story is its fast pace that constantly sweeps the plot threads in a forward manner and make it exciting all the way to the final twists of the tale. Lastly the author has to be lauded for making this into a standalone story and not dragging it out over several volumes. Amid the era of series, this standalone story makes it a good investment of time for any new or old readers.

Now these were the points that I liked about the story unfortunately my overall experience wasn’t an entirely fun one because of the following factors that depreciated the read. One of the main reasons that I didn’t like about this story was the uneven characterization. Beginning with our main protagonist Flick who is shown to be struggling in the first third then suddenly becomes this uber-cool fantastic student that crushes everyone and is great at everything and then in last third again does a turn-around to become a semi-confused persona. Then there’s Joi who surprisingly turns out to be the best at everything and is the Mary Sue for this story. Following on with this trend there are the antagonists Gwendolyn who’s supposed to be this ultimate badass but comes across as unhinged and weak. The main villain is also a mastermind who gets fooled ridiculously at crucial turns. This was especially disappointing as the villains became caricature-ish and thus the predictability of the story become apparent to the most novice readers.

This is one of the aspects of the YA storyline that I don’t understand exactly. The cool concept which isn’t properly explored perhaps considering the YA nature of the book This was the most frustrating part about this story that while it seemed that the author had this fantastic idea/plot but the execution faltered majorly for the story to fall into the category of “could have been awesome but…” stories. Perhaps I’m not so familiar with YA stories and how they are executed but in this book I was more than waiting to be surprised. However the ending came and my expectations took a downward turn. The climax while not so surprising becomes a bit comical in regards to the solution about the Mandel Academy?

The author does try her best to come up with a twist of sorts in regards to Flick’s revenge plotline and however the overall predictability of the climax makes it a moot point of sorts. In this regard, my opinion of the book is a subjective one and it will be up to the readers to see how they find the story. I think this could have been a fantastic piece but ultimately went sideways for me. Lastly one good thing about the story is that it ends on a poignant note of sorts and perhaps the author can also explore the characters in a future book for those who did enjoy this story and want to know more about the characters and world.

CONCLUSION: A fantastic idea that intrigued me however the book didn’t hold up to the impressive happenings as promised in the blurb. How to Lead A Life Of Crime is a book that will finds its fans and detractors, sadly I find myself leaning towards the latter camp and couldn’t really enjoy the story as it was written.
Profile Image for Devanshi.
225 reviews155 followers
April 11, 2021
Because Peter Pan can never die. And as long as I’m around, there will always be someone here who believes in him.

Wow. Just...... WOW. That 6 pages epilogue made me give it an extra star. This is the type of book you can picture a movie on.

It was an amazing concept and the characters, too. Flick, Joi and our very own Peter Pan. The writing was smooth and I loved the first person narration of Flick. It started slow but once it reached the half mark, everything went boom! And that climax? It was wonderfully executed. I honestly didn't expect to love this book as much as I did. I haven't read from this genre for a long time, but it's really good to be back. Now I just want to read the original Peter Pan and get lost in Never Land. Good bye.

"What takes more guts? To fight for your own life at any cost—or prove that you’re willing to lose it?”
Profile Image for Katy.
611 reviews333 followers
March 29, 2013
3.5 stars - I have mixed feelings about this book, but I'm bumping it up because I like the unique concept. I really struggled with the first half, but the second half was actually pretty good. A much improvement from the Eternal One series.

First of all, I love the concept. It was dark and sinister and had the perfect mood to go with it. No, I can't say the book was very realistic, and a lot of the crimes and background information were a little too over the top. But I think it fits because we're talking about the worst of the worst here, and the concept does make you question just how much is deeper than just meets the eye.

Having said that, I really struggle with the first half. Not only was it long, but it FELT long. One, Flick was interesting enough, but I found it hard to like him. Sure, he's been through a lot, but he was just one cocky bastard. And two, I just felt like it took way too long for anything to happen. Sure, Flick had his little missions, and he was admitted to the academy and proceeded to conquer, but I found myself thinking, "Who cares?" I just couldn't get myself to, and I'm not sure if it was because I knew Flick's heart wasn't into it, or if I was just bored.

And many have mentioned this, but yes, the censoring of "f---" was really annoying. At first, I thought it was just Flick's way of saying the word like the way a lot of people say "eff." But then I realized it really was censoring. Why use it at all. And the book itself was dark and scary (not in a frightening way but in a mentally chilling sort of way), and it was littered with crime and murder, so why censor it in the first place. It's not exactly a rated G book.

But halfway through the book, the new class enters the scene, and that's when it starts becoming interesting. First of all, there are people to put Flick in his place, and even though he is thrown in a funk, it was much more interesting to read than the stoic weapon he was supposed to be. I still wasn't crazy about Flick and his annoyingly inconsistent character development, but there were enough interesting characters - both heroes and villans.

Along the way, you learn what Mandel really wants, a lot of conspiring and some backstabbing, as well as a few twists - some were predictable, but there were a few surprises. Miller really took the time to plan this intricate web of how everything falls into play.

There were some things I still wasn't clear about like

So overall, it was a pretty interesting story. I just wish it wasn't so long or that it didn't feel so long. I could have used some more excitement in the first half or maybe even less of the story from that half overall. But in the end, it was a pretty cool book.
Profile Image for Sarah.
281 reviews54 followers
February 11, 2021
4 1/2 stars, but I'm rounding it up for the sake of pure entertainment.
I never set out to be a thief. I suppose I once had something grander in mind. But when you live on the streets, you find that your career options are limited. You can be one of the kids who disappear with the strangers who cruise through every night. You can sell the stuff that helps those kids forget what they’ve seen. Or you can be a thief. If those choices don’t suit you, you can always be dead.

How to lead a life of crime depicts the hard life on the streets of New York and a boarding school that appears to be a safe haven but is much more than that.
The plot slowly grows darker and I was surprised by its complexity.
None of them (the kids) are old enough to watch R-rated movies, but most have seen things in their own lives that would never make it past any censor.

It’s a thriller with heart-stopping pacing. There wasn’t a single boring moment in this book, and the action and plot twists had me at the edge of my seat.

Flick is our main character. If you liked Cassel from White Cat, you’ll love this guy!
He’s a phenomenal actor, manipulator and survivor. Flick may pretend to be an asshole but is deep down so caring and brave. He would do anything for the people he loves. Not to mention he’s hilarious and always quick with his sarcastic replies. He rises to the top of his class at Mandel Academy, and it's because he's so confident and quick to catch on.
I usually have trouble connecting with male POV, but no such problem here.
The characters, oh the characters.. We have a wonderful cast of secondary characters. There are about 50 students at Mandel Academy, roughly 15 of them are more focused on and Miller somehow manages to flesh them all out. I kid you not, EVERY single character is important. The character descriptions and extra background at the back shows how much thought was put into them,

In case you’re wondering about my new shelf called Peter Pan syndrome - no I’m not referring to people who don’t want to grow up, it’s because this book is about lost kids who have to fight on their own, like in the story.
Kids who do not know better. The first chapters we are introduced to a group of children who live on the street.
That's why the contrast is so effective; we go from poverty and helplessness to a glamorous yet harsh world of elegant, discreet crime.

It reads like a great action movie, but with better characters and a less rushed plot. It is an adventure through and through.
There's murder, lies, tests and hardcore training. It's one of my favorites of the year. I loved it. You should read it, if you're not convinced by now.
P.S I originally wrote a much longer and more detailed review for this but accidentally deleted it and 10 other half-finished reviews off my phone. LOVELY. I'm upset because it was one of my favorite ones I’ve written.
Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,110 followers
April 23, 2013
What takes more guts? To fight for your own life at any cost - or prove that you're willing to lose it?

A fair bit of warning: this book is NOT for the faint-of-heart. It contains and talks about a lot of stuff, both sensitive and controversial, that will highly likely bother and rattle your squeamish and soft-hearted side. Organized crimes, underground syndicates, briberies, rape, prostitution, suicide, serial killings, secret laboratory stuff that will make you look away in disgust... yup, you name it, and the list goes on and on and on. I don't even think this book is suitable for those below 15, but if you're tough and open-minded, then I reckon you can handle it.

How to Lead a Life of Crime is easily one of the most violent, gritty Young Adult books out there. The stuff I previously stated alone is a testament to that; however, despite such a claim, it's also one of the most refreshing and heart-warming I've ever read. It touches upon differing themes: friendship, love, family, and revenge; it pushes you into a variety of emotions you can barely control. You'll get angry. You'll get frustrated. You'll probably root for the main character regardless whether he's doing the right thing or not. And you'll also get sad. Very, very sad. It's a whirlwind of feelings, but I assure you - in the end, it'll be worth it. So, hang in there!

There are so many things to love in this book, but the factor that I appreciated the most was the main character and the way his personality, his narration and everything about him were written. We're introduced to Flick, a seventeen year old guy scavenging the streets and trying to survive as a thief. He has a troubled and dark past thanks to his super rich and powerful but also brutal and abusive father, who has beaten him left and right while growing up. Flick believes that in order to get back at this dad, he needs to get stronger first, and thus takes it to the streets. One day, however, another powerful man invites him to this prestigious, well-known Academy, only to find out that it's a school that makes and breeds criminals.

Flick's voice grips you from the very first page and doesn't let you go. He's amazingly intellectual, cynical, witty, calculating, and masculine, making him such a refreshing person to read. I haven't had this much fun reading a male character narrate for a long time. It's pretty obvious that Flick has a lot of conflicted feelings inside him; he's angry, sad, and frustrated all at the same time, but even with all these feelings bottled up, he keeps up a cool and tough façade, seeing things in a wary and cynical eye. He doesn't hesitate to throw a sarcastic comment every now and then, and when he's trying to be funny, he's really funny. His flaws, reactions, and gestures are very realistic and genuine, making him such a likeable and authentic character.

Sometimes you'll find yourself questioning his actions. But whether or not he's doing the right and good thing, you'll root for him, anyway. He'll make his struggles your struggles, too. Maybe this is why he became such an effective individual. I couldn't help but be in his shoes all the way thanks to the convincing narration Miller has written.

Aside from this, I loved how scary social issues were presented here. Now, I don't think that such an Academy does exist, but organized crimes, syndicates, briberies, murder, suicide, rape... all of these are real in the real world. They do happen out there, somewhere, making this book, for me, scarier than a zombie/vampire novel. Many times the thought of such activities made me want to back away and hurl, but I eventually held my ground, especially since I saw how the characters, in the end, wanted to fight against it. I appreciated the fact that this book made these concerns more accessible to the intended audience, making it not just simply a background, but also a relevant matter that should be given more thought and attention.

Also, this book is like a "you and me against the world" kinda thing. The plot is extremely engaging and compelling. IT IS NOT BORING . It's like, once you think things are going to cool down, another event happens that will blow your mind away, another twist you just didn't expect coming appears. It will punch you in the gut, kick you in the chin, crack your ribs wide open. It's THAT gripping. There is a lot of shock factor given the fact the plot is not without the controversial stuff that were mentioned earlier, so be wary and cautious, but if you're fine with it, be prepared for a fun ride.

My only problem is the censorship of swears. I don't understand the need to censor it when in fact the book talks about a lot of scarier stuff that are more sensitive than "fuck". We're talking about murder and suicide. If teens can take it, why not that single "f" word, especially since it's common to the ears nowadays? :/

All in all, How to Lead a Life of Crime finds a spot in my 2013 favorites. The voice, the plot, the overall writing is pitch-perfect, crystal clear, and extremely pleasurable to read. I would love to read it again and again in the future :)

What would it be like to exist in a world without suffering? To have no needs, only desires? To be surrounded by so much beauty that you forget how ugly life is for everyone else? Who wouldn't want that? Who wouldn't be willing to fight for it? What the alumni did to get there - lie, cheat, steal, kill - I'm sure they'd all say it was worth it. And I bet they sleep soundly because they know that their nameless, faceless victims would have done the same thing.
Profile Image for Tiff.
569 reviews539 followers
March 1, 2013
Flick is a boy who lives on the streets. And he's...a force to be reckoned with. He’s a thief who tries to help people occasionally – he still takes money, but from the first moment you meet him, you see that he’s got a bit of a hero complex. He’s layered, he’s emotionally damaged, and he’s living on the streets because he’s had some MAJOR family drama. You really want to give him a hug right away.

Luckily, Flick’s girlfriend Joi (pronounced Joey) is there to give the hugs. She’s sweet, compassionate, and totally take-no-prisoners. She takes in street urchins and tries to help them, which Flick doesn’t approve of, but he still totally loves her. Joi is incredibly well drawn - even though we don’t hear that much about her, we know why Flick loves her. Unfortunately, Flick is terrified of hurting her and hurting himself, so he's planning to leave her any moment.

The perfect moment comes up when Flick is tapped by a guy named Lucian Mandel to attend a special school for street kids. The school basically teaches people to be white-collar criminals – and it’s kinda crazy. Flick is not interested, but Mandel has some information that Flick really, desperately wants in order to fulfill what Flick feels is his duty in life. In order to get that information, Flick agrees to be a student at Mandel Academy. In doing so, he discovers the seedy underbelly of New York's corporate criminals, and whether he can stomach everything that Mandel Academy is in order to pursue his duty.

Confession: I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. I couldn’t remember the synopsis when I first started reading, so when I started, I wasn’t sure if the protagonist was a boy or a girl. It didn’t even matter. I was immediately drawn in to the rich, dark atmosphere of Flick’s New York: a dark, dank place full of petty thieves and people looking out for themselves.

Sadly, the above is pretty much all I can tell you about the plot and characters without spoiling anything. Seriously, you do NOT want me to say anything else. This book is chock-full of twists, and every time I thought I knew what was going to happen, Miller would throw another thing at me. She also revealed things way earlier than I expected her to, keeping me guessing at every turn. I honestly did not know how this one was going to end, or even where the next chapter was going to lead me.

Read the rest of this review at Mostly YA Lit
Profile Image for TheRachelMonster.
59 reviews31 followers
August 10, 2016
Hogwarts for Hustlers meets the Hunger Games (sort of).

To the outside world, the Mandel Academy is an upstanding, prestigious school producing many of New York's elite. Bankers, lawyers, and even politicians have emerged from this renowned (but mysterious) academy in Manhattan. Bottom line, anybody who’s anybody graduates from the Mandel Academy. Or, they don’t graduate at all.

That’s right. A school where failing just may be the death of you.

Flick, our hero, knows everything has a price. And, as Mandel’s most recent initiate (and first volunteer), he’s quickly learning the bargain he’s made may not worth it.

I enjoyed this book! It’s dark, gritty, and mysterious. Plus, I loved both Flick’s sarcasm and his strength. There were a ton of twists—-some mind-blowing, and some not so much. A fast paced story, with a creative plot, and a three dimensional MC. I certainly recommend you put this on your to-read list.
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,540 reviews33.9k followers
December 29, 2013
I liked the first part of this book when Flick was still living on the streets, but once he entered the Academy, I was much less engaged by the story, and in fact had to push myself to finish it. I just didn't really care that much about the prison-like alpha dog dynamics, nor about the majority of the characters and relationships.

I did like the male POV and Flick's sense of humor, and of course Peter Pan references are ones I'm going to be fond of! But while the plot has certain points that are intellectually stimulating, the story never really excited me or surprised me that much--and definitely did not come close to reaching me on a deeper level. Could be that I've read too many thrillers, though, as most people seem to be excited over this one. In my case, it's a like, but not love situation. Oh, well.
Profile Image for Maija.
28 reviews2 followers
March 3, 2013
The book was a page-turner, but I can't help but feel frustrated with all the lost potential of the story.

What didn't work for me
- I felt like the book simplified some really big issues: corrupt politicians, greedy businessmen, dishonest lawyers, drug lords and human traffickers are everywhere, but the book's ending leaves the reader with a false feeling of a happy ending, as if destroying the school and its alumni would actually change any of those things. I get that the story had a message of altruism and that we can all fight the system if we choose to, that there's always a third choice. But I'm not really convinced by a story that brings up such complex issues and then never even attempts to say anything substantial about them. I guess one of the only times this happened was when one of the students, Felix, was assigned his major, and he was shocked to learn that after finally managing to escape sex work he would have to become a pimp – and sell other people's bodies instead of his own, while knowing just how horrible it is. When I read the scene, I was almost in tears just like Felix. And then the whole thing was barely mentioned ever again and I was really disappointed, because insights like this would have given the book's message a lot more substance.

- There were way too many characters who were nothing but a name attached to a few characteristics. The amount of characters wouldn't have been a problem, if the more central characters (aside from Flick and maybe Joi) wouldn't have been left unexplored. I wanted to know more about characters like Ella, Felix, Aubrey and Lucas, but the focus shifted constantly away from them. Instead, we get to read about Gwendolyn and the other "wolves", who are not really given proper personalities or any interesting qualities despite all the paragraphs dedicated to them. And sorry to say this, but Flick alone wasn't really the kind of character that can make a book great without the support of other characters. Of course he wasn't really alone: his friendship with Lucas was one of my favourite parts of the book, and I thought his relationship with Joi was interesting as well. Still, in the end it felt like a lot of potential was wasted with the way the characters and Flick's relationship to them was handled.

- The book was full of violence and gruesome deaths, but their impacts weren't really brought up or dealt with in depth. It feels a bit weird that in a YA book it's possible to have graphic details of killing a person, but never really discuss how it really affects those doing the deed, or those who might have to witness it. I know it was mentioned how the people in the school had to either be psychopaths or become sociopaths in order to get to the top, but it would have been more interesting if the book tried to go a bit deeper into the psychology behind those personality disorders. Now it almost feels like they were used more as a fantasy element than anything else... The theory about a psychopathy/sociopathy gene was so ridiculous I had a hard time suspendending my disbelief when Flick, who was supposed to be super smart and educated, was all "okay, sounds legit".

- Also, can we talk about how there can be murders left and right, but any sort of sexual content is shoved so tightly between the lines it's almost impossible to detect? But I guess that's what you get with YA books...

What I liked
- The way Flick handled his past and spoke to his dead little brother Jude really helped to shape him as a character. I liked how the events in the past were revealed bit by bit over time, because it was still hard for Flick to admit what had happened. It also established him as a sort-of-unreliable narrator and made me not take everything he says at face value.

- Joi was amazing and flawless and if you think otherwise, you probably have issues and need to go.

- Lucas and Flick's little friendship was one of the things I really enjoyed. It was so subtle but still had an impact on them both.

Other things
- I was a bit surprised by the amount of gay references and jokes. I'm not sure if it was because Flick could have been flexible like that, or if he just felt so ~secure~ in his heterosexuality that he didn't get upset by being called a faggot or men hitting on him. Idk.

- All the literary and movie references in the beginning were funny and interesting, but for some reason they were dropped almost completely (except for Peter Pan of course). I loved the "Are you testing if I'm a Replicant or a homosexual" one.

- I still don't really get what the videos Flick, Ella, Ivan and others were shown during the assessment were about.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
635 reviews29 followers
December 12, 2013
If I could only use one word to describe this reading experience, this book: “interminable.” If I could add a couple of others, I might throw in some like “flat,” “overstated,” “uneven,” “illogical,” and even a descriptive phrase like “poor narrative integrity.” If someone challenged me to find some positive things to say about the book, I could manage that: some nice conspiracy theory aspects about the unscrupulous 1% manipulating and capitalizing on the populace as if we are an entirely different species and bringing attention to the many ways that the powers that be prey upon their “underlings.” I could also mention that I liked the character Joi when we meet her early on in the novel as a Wendy figure looking after orphans, strays, and runaways on the lower East side of NYC. Sadly, she only reappears after a long absence at page 273. Seriously, I had to dredge through almost 300 pages before the quoted excerpt on the back of the book, about her being brought to the Mandel Academy--a bizarre school where you rise to the top of the criminally trained teenagers or you die--comes to pass.

I didn’t ever really come to care about or much admire Flick, the protagonist, who didn’t even seem to exhibit consistent aspects of character. And even Joi’s backstory as a child of a Bosnian war criminal who came to the U.S. with a refugee camp aid worker at 14 but then ran away, didn’t feel true or rational—I just liked her better. None of the teenagers really sounded or acted much like teenagers, even if I adjust my expectations for the saved from societal disposal types that make up most of the students at Mandel.

If I hadn’t been considering this as an award nominee, I would have given up much earlier. I found it a chore, rather than a joy, to read. Clearly, based on the book’s rating on GoodReads and even among my own committee, I am in the minority here, but I stand by my assessment. It appears one student at my school has checked it out. I will hunt him down and find out whether he liked it, finished it. It’s always better to have the real live YA perspective before committee deliberations, particularly if a book just irked me, and teens have no problem with it.

Basic premise, just because I’ve said almost nothing about it: Flick is on the streets making his living through petty theft when he is invited to attend his father’s alma mater to decide a wager between his monster of a father, responsible for the death of his beloved brother, and the strange headmaster of the school. If he attends, Flick is promised evidence that will convict dear old Dad, so he is willing to put up with all the insanity at the school, where becoming the ultimate predator is the only way to graduate and survive; but preying on your classmates and humanity is a high price to pay for wealth and power. The headmaster believes many people have the potential to become predators is a genetic switch is flipped through trial by fire. He is willing to do anything to prove his theory.

Mandel, the headmaster, is by turns Hannibal Lector mad scientist and James Bond chatty villain. It never quite makes the level of working spoof or satire. I didn’t find the wolves, androids, or ghosts at the Academy to be fleshed out to much remember who is who; and the character of Gwendolyn just makes no sense at all for too many reasons to list here.

Apologies to friends or colleagues who really dug the book The Eternal Ones (Eternal Ones, #1) by Kirsten Miller , but I remember intensely disliking her other book called The Eternal Ones, too, so I am thinking she’s just not my author. I can’t imagine this book being popular with my students, but tastes and opinions are meant to be varied, right? I will update if I find I am just crotchety and too hard to please!
Profile Image for Jessica.
363 reviews12 followers
June 28, 2013
This book reminded me so much of Divergent, mostly in the sense of "I can barely stand to read this, but I know so many people who will think this is The Best Book Ever." For my professional review I will write about the potential mass appeal, but for Good Reads, you get my complaints.

1) The use of the word "f--" seriously, as in they couldn't print the word but couldn't come up with a suitable replacement. The weirdest form of censorship. What The Fuck? If you won't print the word, don't have your characters say it.
2) Boring characters with inconsistent motivations.
3) Unremarkable relationships.
4) Violence for the sake of plot. Deaths because the protagonist needs a reason to be angry. But we don't really care about the victims.
5) No underlying sense of morality. In fact the author seemed to enjoy describing sadism. And while our hero is fighting against the psychopaths, he doesn't seem any better than them.
6) Lack of realism removed any value this book may have had.
7) So derivative. When Flick calls the school for criminals a "Hogwarts for Hoodlums" it tells you everything about the structure of the story. Wacky classes, unusual teachers, inter school competitions.

Profile Image for Angelica.
805 reviews1,066 followers
November 21, 2015

“Where's the course called How to Lead a Life of Crime? That's what this is about, isn't it? You've got everyone thinking this is the best school in the country, but it's really just a Hogwarts for hustlers.”

That quote up there is the absolutely most hilariously perfect quote
to describe this book. I loved it, when I read it I was cracking up! "Hogwarts for hustlers," too funny!!!

Real rating......4.5

This book was pretty darn awesome. Never had I read a book like it. Usually book plots are overdone and everything that happens is completely predictable. Predictable plot, predictable setting and of course, predictable characters. This book was nothing of the sort.

So this book takes place in New York and more importantly, the Mendel Academy. This isn't just some regular school, this is a school for criminals and I'm not just talking about petty thieves and other small time criminals, no I'm talking master thieves who steal billions with the push of a computer key. They are the most powerful people in the world and they are all trained criminals. Trained in stealing, killing and every other form of crime in between. Those are the alumni of the Mendel Academy. Just imagine if this place was real. They practically own the world and all the people in it. That is a seriously scary thing.

There we meet Flick an average homeless pickpocket with a better than average past. He is a boy that once ran away from Military school after his rich but totally abusive father killed his younger brother Jude and his mother committed suicide. He finds himself living in a basement with a bunch of street urchins and their leader a fearless girl named Joey (spelled j-o-i). That though doesn’t last long as he then finds himself in the presence of Lucian Mendel, the charismatic yet cruel and psychotic headmaster of the Mendel Academy.

There Flick makes it his personal mission to pass and graduate with honors in order to avenge his family’s deaths and ruin his father who just so happen to be a Mendel graduate. But there things start to get complicated as hidden agendas start to be revealed and secrets are exposed and then nothing makes sense anymore, especially when Flick meets again with the past he tried so hard to forget. And all he has to keep him company and keep him ‘sane’ is his old pal Peter Pan (yes, Peter Pan the boy who never grew up, the guy with the little green hat, the one that is friends with Tinkerbell, that Peter Pan.) I guess that doesn’t really help much with his sanity though.

A long the way a lot of disturbing theories and horrifying revelations come to light and it’s all truly greatly written. There are so many strange characters, especially Lucian who is a first class lunatic, that are so well developed. I wondered what went on through the authors mind when she wrote this book because it is seriously messed up. Still, I loved the concept and the story and all the characters, especially Peter Pan. I also really liked Lucian despite it all, he really did make a good bad guy, one that believed so completely in his cause and was 100% committed to it. He might be a psychopath who kills children and makes then in to sociopaths he likes to call ‘predators’ but he was good at it. That is my kind of villain.

I wish there were more books like it out there because I would definitely read them. Great read though I admit I had low expectations. I really enjoyed it, I mean really, who hasn’t ever thought what it would be like to be a criminal? I know I have.

Profile Image for Winter Winslow.
38 reviews24 followers
September 5, 2015
The main character kept whining about how in love he was with his girlfriend but how he couldn't be with her because she was holding him down and taking his freedom. However "interesting" this existential crisis seemed, I was suddenly convinced to stop reading this book.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Drake.
431 reviews91 followers
February 6, 2014
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.

The rest of this review, and my parent/teacher advisories can be found at Reading Between Classes
Profile Image for Burn.
207 reviews
April 15, 2015
Cool ideas!
But a bit dull...

To be honest, I’m disappointed about this book. I enjoyed some parts and it was commendable how the authors created various characters, starting from really smart ones, good ones, pathetic and even the psychopathic and sociopathic ones. And how the author didn’t have reservations on being cruel and bloody.
Some were strong. Some were weak. And the only difference between them was a choice. Fight or give in. And that choice was mine. All mine.

I had varied thoughts about How to Lead a Life of Crime over the time I was reading it:

1. Before reading: Cool Title
2. Beginning: I thought it would have the fascinating idea of twisting bad parts (crime) into entertaining ones.
3. Later: Okay, I was disappointed it wasn’t as entertaining as I’d expected.
4. The beheading part: No matter what, the author showed cruelly that there is not fun in crimes. And really nice side characters.
5. Middle part: I was beginning to like the main character, Flick, and anticipating what smart things he’d do.
{4 and 5 = the best parts}
6. Next part: Ugh, why did Joi showed up? Joey spelled as J-O-I. She ruined the point where you were supposed to focus more on the main character.
7. Next, next part: Gah! Joi here, Joi there, Joi everywhere. Where have you been, Flick?
8. Almost ending part: BORING
9. Ending: Okay, fine. Done! But how the hell that the top student of the Academy got caught not a year had passed since they escaped the Academy when all they’d learned in the Academy is how to do crimes on big scale, efficient and how not to be caught? Huh?!
“If you’re born weak, you need to suffer before you grow strong. And those of us who are strong should fight every day to avoid growing weak. Never show mercy to anyone who refuses to suffer or fight. They’re inferior beasts and the world would be better without them.”

Actual rating: 2.5
Profile Image for Marina.
248 reviews22 followers
August 25, 2015
Uno de esos libros que te dan ganas de leerlo de corrido y sin parar ni para usar el baño.
Me encantó Flick hasta que ingresa a la academia, ahí su personaje se pone un poco confuso y pasa de ser el alumno perfecto a el segundo en comando; altibajos continuamente que, si bien van en la linea de su lucha por venganza versus hacer lo correcto, hacen que se pierda un poco su personalidad de los primeros capítulos del libro.
Odio la frase "hay dos tipos de personas en el mundo...", NO, no hay solo dos tipos de personas, no todo es blanco o negro, esta bueno como Kirsten Miller trabaja esa idea.
"My father never wasted his wisdom on me", buena oración para atraparte desde el comienzo.
Tiene partes un poco predecibles, pero la idea es muy original, y me gustó sobre todo como esta desarrollado el personaje de Jude. También es válido, como algunas otras reviews marcaron, que la autora haya decidido escribir un solo tomo y no estirar la historia en una serie de libros.
Profile Image for Lili.
442 reviews49 followers
February 11, 2013
4.5 stars

Before I write this review, I want to point something out. This book is marketed as a book for readers aged fourteen years and older. However, Kirsten Miller sets all guidelines for giveaways and such for this novel for sixteen years or older because of the content. After reading the book, I have to say that I agree. While I absolutely loved this book, it's very violent, has horrible language, and is uncomfortably twisted at times. It's not something younger kids should read and is definitely geared towards mature young adults. With that being said, now it is time for the review!

I was looking forward to this book because of the unique synopsis above. It stands out, it's not something you come across often, and it promises us a dark, twisted contemporary that covers topics never approached before. Boy, did this one not disappoint.

The story starts off with Flick on the streets before he is taken into the Mandel Academy and we are granted the privilege of watching his life progress outside and then inside this crime academy. Flick ran away from the military school that his abusive father sent him to. He began pickpocketing on the streets to support himself. His story is actually excruciatingly sad, but the beginning of the story introduces us to a side of Flick that begs for revenge and makes him seem fearless, thus it's easy to gravitate towards his character and this easily makes you want to stay connected to him throughout the novel. He grew up rich because his Dad was a conniving banker that stole money using techniques he learned when he spent time at the Mandel Academy that teaches kids how to be the perfect criminals with grossly successful jobs. The fact that he chose to live on the streets instead of staying in his rich, cushy life gave his character a lot of depth. He wasn't willing to live with an abusive parent, taking hits for his Mother who often ran away to protect the children. The only person he never had to take a hit for was his younger brother, Jude. Jude was his father's son while Flick was his mother's son. His father idolized Jude and everything he stood for. If it's possible for a sociopath to love someone, he truly loved Jude. But Jude's now dead and he haunts Flick's dreams by causing him to hallucinate when Jude appears to him as his beloved Peter Pan.

Jude's character was perhaps one of my favorite aspects of this novel. As a child, he loved Peter Pan and believed wholeheartedly that Never Land was a real place. This is why Jude appears to Flick as a ten year old Peter Pan than the sixteen year old boy he was when he died. He often guides Flick and is the voice of reason in a lot of situations. His mere existence in Flick's mind was both creative and slightly disturbing in a psychological thriller type of way. Flick himself often explains how he thinks he's insane because he's a poor thief who talks to Peter Pan in his sleep. However, Jude allowed for a huge aspect of the plot that is unparalleled in young adult literature as well as allowing the beloved Peter Pan tale to twist into the complicated story surrounding the Mandel Academy somehow.

Aside from Jude and Flick, the characterization was superb because it was both fascinating and disturbing. The entire point of this novel is to test hypotheses surrounding the triggering of sociopaths and psychopaths. As an individual taking a psychology class, I know that psychopaths and sociopaths make up almost the entire majority of serial killers. Aside from this, they're often insanely successful businessmen, politicians, bankers, and other important figures because they possess drive and many leadership qualities, despite their closed off emotions and insane ways of thinking. This book exploits that and exemplifies how psychopaths can blend into society by making themselves seem normal when they're actually cold and calculating. I won't name any names, but I want you to be able to be as shocked as I was with some big reveals in this one. So instead, I'll say this. While this is fascinating, you can easily tell that this book is going to be disturbing. Sociopathic tendencies do often lead to smartly planned murders and skewed morals. They can wholeheartedly believe that what they are doing is right while the moral compasses in most of the human race are going off screaming "Warning! Warning! In the presence of a crazy man! Back up and save yourself!" This leads to some really disturbing aspects of the novel that almost make you want to put it down, but the mystery and intrigue are so delicious and rich that you can't. Plus, as I noted earlier, Flick's desire to avenge all the wrongs done to his family is such a great goal that you easily become attached to him and you want to watch his story play out until the end. However, this book isn't for those who are easily disturbed or offended. I cannot stress this enough, despite how much I recommend it.

The romance in this one was great as well, and I say that because you can tell that Flick and Joi (pronounced Joey) really do love each other despite their odd relationship. They do have sex and there are sexual references in the novel, but it's never graphic and it's not as if Miller says "and now they are going to have sex." More often than not, they go to sleep together and sometimes that's really all they do, sleep, and then later in the novel it's referenced that they slept together intimately and such. So, if you're not okay with such references, back up now. While this isn't a large part of the book, it's part of their relationship. At times they see very little of each other and it makes you almost want to eagerly anticipate the moment that they reunite because Flick and Joi are so perfect for each other. Joi is the motherly type as well as being a brilliant schemer. She takes kids off the streets and keeps them fed and clothed in her basement despite the fact that she is a homeless seventeen year old as well. She's respectable and keeps Flick grounded when he temporarily strays away from his respectable life. They make an odd pair, but a perfect pair nonetheless and the slow-moving romance that serves as a really important back-plot to the story is perfect. It does not dominate the story or take anything over, but Joi is always in the back of Flick's mind.

My one pet peeve in this novel is the language. I don't care about bad language and cussing in novels. It lends itself to portraying realistic teens because, let's face it, teens cuss a lot. However, I hate it when fake cuss words are thrown in or cuss words are not fully typed out. It's almost my biggest pet peeve because I don't think you should write a novel with cusses in it unless you are going to include the cusses. I couldn't help but roll my eyes every time "f---ing" or "f---" appeared in the text, yet many other cusses were fine. Just don't include the words if you aren't going to write them out to get the full emotion forced behind cuss words to shine through. That covers my last warning as well. If you can't deal with cuss words, turn back now. They're a constant companion in this novel.

So, I clearly loved this one, but I know it's not for everyone. The darkness and the creepiness really appealed to me. While I admit that this novel has the potential to be disturbing in many different ways, I found that it fit into the plot because of the whole psychopathic tendencies thing. Some other people may not be able to get by this though, so I only recommend this one to older young adults who like darker novels, don't mind sexual references, cussing, murder, and twisted thinkers that make amazingly vile villains. If you fit into that category, I urge you to get your hands on this one as soon as possible because it truly did live up to my expectations. A quick read, I can't wait to see what else Miller has in store for us. She is an amazing author that makes you think and takes you places that other writers are scared to venture and this is a book that'll be on my mind for a while.
Profile Image for Ramsky.
13 reviews10 followers
August 21, 2018
I honestly cant bring myself to finish this book. I've tried so very hard.

Flick is ridiculously edgy and I cant stand anything about his character. The overall premise of this book is great but the execution is dreadful. Every single character is flat and unrelatable. The only time I've felt emotional in these first 150 pages was when Flick was speaking about his dead brother.

I really want to like this book but the writing is choppy and unimpactful. I'm nearly half way through the book and I have absolutely no desire to keep reading. It just feels like such a waste. I have to force myself to pick this book up every day and crack open a chapter.

I dont want to be *that* asshole, but how the hell this book has almost 4 stars on GR is beyond me.

Maybe I'll try again some day, but the weeks it's taken me to chisel through the first 150 pages could be better spent on a book I actually enjoy, so I'm going to give up on this for now. Pretty disappointing; young criminals are just my style. Sadly, this book wasnt.
Profile Image for lucky little cat.
546 reviews101 followers
August 21, 2018
Here's what you get when you cross Hunger Games with The Wolf of Wall Street.
NYC YA prep-school story pits an average grunt against a bunch of Stepford-shiny schoolmates, and rapidly deteriorates into a one-track narrative with cartoonish villains. Women also take a hit since they're jammed into the same old familiar stereotypical roles: Madonna, whore, lunatic, and sexy schoolgirl. Ironic since the author's working hard to give the book a subversively liberal message: greed is, y'know, actually bad.
Profile Image for Amaranta.
91 reviews
September 4, 2022
Saqué este libro para hacer espacio a otro, recuerdo haber intentado leerlo hace un tiempo y no haberme interesado al punto de querer seguir con la lectura, por eso lo dejé en espera, pero ahora me dije que le daría una oportunidad, y que bien que se la di porque no me decepcionó.

Este es uno de esos libros en donde las primeras doscientas páginas deseé que hubiera sido escrito para adultos, porque sentía que había temas que hubieran sido manejados de mejor forma si hubieran sido temas en los que la autora se hubiera podido explayar con libertad, y luego, las siguientes doscientas páginas entendí porque era YA: un protagonista adolescente se hará cargo de la malvada institución, algo que solo pasa en sueños.

En primer punto hay que aceptar que la trama suena un tanto risible, ¿una escuela para enseñar a la gente a ser criminal? Cómo si alguien necesitara educación para ello, entonces, la verdadera incógnita estaba en cómo iban a convertir esta idea en algo plausible, ¿la respuesta? Una que no se puede dar sin entrar al territorio de spoilers, pero no es del todo decepcionante. Y ojo en el "no del todo".

En fin, pasemos a lo que me gustó y no me gustó del libro para poder entrar en esos detalles escabrosos.


✓ El protagonista es increíblemente carismático, inteligente y simpático. Y, aunque debería de ser la norma, no es común encontrar protagonistas tan vivos en la YA, por eso desde un primer momento Flick llama la atención y quieres seguir escuchando su historia. Inclusive en las decisiones que parecen problemáticas o extrañas, sabes que es algo normal, porque se trata del trauma.

✓ Un buen narrador, Flick cuenta su historia de manera clara y te deja ver los momentos necesarios de su vida y lo que ocurre cómo para que quieras seguir leyendo.

✓ La historia se encuentra siempre en movimiento y con vueltas de rueda, y los detalles que te topas al inicio o que pueden hacerte dudar de la misma, luego vuelven y tienen una razón para haber estado ahí. Este libro te explica las dudas que puedas tener al inicio de "¿Pero porqué esta pasando esto?", y lo hace dentro de la historia y mientras esta se desenvuelve, y no como una excusa o algo que se dice tan solo para callarte.

✓ Es entretenido. De nueva cuenta, creo que esto debería de darse por sentado y no ser un punto a favor, pero luego hay mucho libro que ni eso puede hacer.

✓ Las relaciones se construyen. La pareja principal ya tenía seis meses de conocerse, cuatro de estar separados y pensado uno en el otro, así que no fue un amor de quince días. Lo cuál también se agradece.

✓ Me gustaron los personajes, y genuinamente esperaba que todo terminara bien para ellos. En teoría no lo iba a terminar de una sentada, pero tenía que saber que los niños estarían bien.


✗ Flick empieza muy bien, le crees es inteligente, snarky, y con esa necesidad de ayudar al prójimo aunque luego se lo recrimine (en algún punto me recordó a El de A Deathly Education), pero luego comienza a ser taaan listo, que todas las salva porque él ya esta tres pasos adelante que cualquier villano, y aunque luego se prueba cómo esta en un error, en algún punto de la narrativa me comenzó a molestar que saliera de los problemas solo por ser "pensante" e ir "tres pasos adelante" (según él).

✗ El resto de alumnos de la escuela de Mandel es una pared sin ninguna personalidad. Para tratarse, dizque, de las personas más peligrosas del mundo, ninguno entra jamás al ruedo, lo cuál es una gran mentira y falta de este libro. En algún punto se menciona de 300 a 400 miembros activos, bueno, no necesito tantos, dame cinco de esas personas, siendo personas reales y con vida, estoy segura de que van a generar problemas enormes.

✗ Es difícil creer que una organización como esta pudiera salirse con la suya a ese nivel, en algún punto comencé a llamarlos "los illuminati" mientras me reía de sus seres.

✗ También me asustó que Joi se fuera a convertir en un token, no una persona real, sino esta criatura mística que iba a hacer que Flick siguiera luchando. Afortunadamente no fue así, pero los meses que ella no estuvo con Flick estuvo a punto de serlo.

✗ Pero claro que la villana tenía que ser una mujer, rubia, preciosa, sin ningún contenido dentro, ¿verdad? Flick se avienta unos comentarios misóginos de repente que me trague nada más recordándome que es un niño de diecisiete, escrito en 2012, al cuál aun le falta mucho por aprender. Es normal que se fije tanto en el físico de las personas. La autora quería darle un giro diciendo "ni siendo tan hermosa me interesa", o "mi Joi siendo fea igual me gusta", pero amiga, de todas formas, le esta diciendo fea a Joi, o sea.

Cosas que tengo que decir, pero entran en el área de spoilers:

En general, fue una historia diferente, y la premisa una complicada de contar, pero creo que la autora hizo lo que pudo para mantenerla una historia interesante del bien contra el mal, y del porqué vale la pena seguir, y aunque falla en algún puntos, la tensión se mantiene, la trama es novedosa (al menos la escuela no es de magia), y Flick es un protagonista carismático por el que te interesas .
Profile Image for Mundie Moms & Mundie Kids.
1,952 reviews204 followers
January 28, 2013

What happens when you take a smooth pickpocket and introduce him to a bunch of ruthless teenage criminals at New York City's most exclusive academy for young criminals? You get a twisted, dark story that will leave you cheering on the story's main character, and hoping he not only succeeds but brings down the entire academy, something that's next to impossible to do.

This isn't a book I'd normally pick up and read. When I first received How To Lead a Life of Crime I was both looking forward to picking up something that wasn't necessarily my cup of tea and a little hesitant at how I would enjoy reading about, as the synopsis says, "A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer." Kirsten Miller did something within her story that hooked me, and had me cheering on her main character, Flick. There was something about a kid who went from having it all on the outside, as in living in a mansion, to choosing to live on the streets, and then inadvertently winding up a Mandel Academy. A place where the forgotten kids are picked up and turned into life long criminals. That is if they survive. Outside of my heartbreaking for the years he endured with an abusive father, there was something about Flick I wanted to know more about.

When the story starts out, Flick is already on the streets. His story isn't a happy one, but there's this fearless, witty, and understandable vengeful side of Flick that I sympathized with. I had to know which path he'd end up choosing. My inner mama side wanted to fix this extremely broken boy. When I say broken, I mean it in every sense of the word. Flick has dwelt with abuse, and something traumatic that has changed him and made him feel crazy, though it just made me want to console him that much more. It also made me understand what drove his decision making, and how it effected his relationship with Joi. Joi is a character who's probably as broken as Flick, but she's someone who makes him stronger. She herself is someone who brings a different light into this very dangerous, terrifying world where people die, suffer and I didn't even how to describe what makes up their world on the streets. It's terrifying to say the least.

This story had moments that not only horrified me, it disturbed me over some of the things that happen. There were times I almost put the book down, but the reason I didn't stop reading it is, because somewhere during the course of the story, Flick and Joi grew into something more than just fictional characters. They became a symbol of reality, and morphed into faceless kids who find themselves stuck with not so wonderful life, who end up calling the streets home, and do whatever is they can to survive. I'm sure many of today's kids on the streets lives mirror that of Flick's and Joi's. They all have various heart breaking reasons for turning to the streets and they like Flick and Joi take survival one day at a time. They deal with things I can't even imagine, and getting just a horrifying glimpse into Flick's world turned me into his cheerleader. When all seems lost he doesn't give up. He keeps fighting, even when the odds are stacked against him. I had to keep reading to see if he wins.

Kirsten's writing, and Flick's voice complimented each other well. Kirsten's writing is one that's dark, and I felt that it could have gone much darker had it not been for Flick's witty comments, and his sometimes smart mouth, which really comes across more as his sense of sarcasm. In a few scenes that could have had a much different out come, Flick is a character who can think on his feet, and says some rather sarcastic things that change the way the scenes feels. I will say I've not read another story quite like this one. There's betrayal, murders, crime, love, loss, and a lot of various emotions that apart of Flick's story. I've never read a book that took place a "hidden" crime academy, which is not surprisingly embedded with long standing rivals, crime, and betrayal. When you're Flick and your future is determined by the outcome of how well he does at Mendal Academy, you figure out a way to out smart the crime boss. Given all the happens in this book I'd recommend it to older YA readers.
Profile Image for Lesley Marie.
28 reviews
September 25, 2013
Ten-Second Review: A thrilling novel that blew my mind. It has a great group of characters, great writing, great plotting. Just great, great, great.

More-Than-Ten-Second Review:

How to Lead a Life of Crime is a book that is chock-full of complete and utter kick butt. Reading this book made for one heck of a ride, and I loved all the layers of the story. Kirsten’s Miller’s novel is violent, thrilling, and contains some pretty controversial stuff, but it can also be really warming to the heart– the story subtly shows the importance of friendship, family, and many other things.

I experienced so, so many feelings awhile I read How to Lead a Life of Crime. I felt pumped up from the thrills, frustrated and angry when things seemed bleak, happy and smiley when something sweet and heartwarming happened, and flabbergasted when something insanely awesome happened. If you want to lead a life of feels for a short time, read this book. (Did you see what I did there?)

The plot of the story is extremely compelling and addictive. Boring moments don’t exist in this book, guys. From the very first page, nothing but entertainment is present. Another amazing this about this book’s story is the conspiracy behind Mandel Academy, a place that turns kids into vicious, cruel people. It was beautifully done and, I dare say, Miller actually makes it believable and possible. She fits the academy with bad intentions right in with the real world. It sort of blows my mind.

Miller focuses a lot on social issues. And these social issues are made an integral part of her novel and are, I believe, written well. I think it’s really great that Miller is taking on so many social issues and presenting them in a YA novel. It makes How to Lead a Life of Crime something that is very new to me.

Flick is a character that I would say is perfect because of his imperfections. Miller did a brilliant job at writing the boy whose bent on revenge’s flaws and internal conflicts and, at the same time, showing that, even though he is broken, he is a genuinely good person. In the very end, Flick isn’t just a character that seeks revenge, he’s more than that. So, so much more than that. Really, Flick has so much depth to his character…

I might have not agreed with Flick’s actions, but I still rooted for him and felt for him. Oh, and his voice… His voice is very clear, intelligent, compelling, and snarky– his dark humor is guaranteed to make you laugh.

And Joi, Flick’s old flame, is so great. When she makes her way back into the story after the beginning, she is just full of unexpected things. She’s kick butt and has the leadership skills and confidence in her peers that Flick lacks. She knows how to handle a situation and can rely on herself. Strong doesn’t even begin to describe her.

I also loved that every other character had a purpose. The side characters, such as the people at Mandel Academy that still have their hearts, play a big role in the story, rather than being introduced and then thrown away. The author puts every character to use and I loved that.

How to Lead a Life of Crime is one of my favorite books, and I loved reading it. It has a lot of cool-factor and has a plot that made for a very intense ride. And it’s intelligently written, which is great. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Toni.
394 reviews18 followers
November 26, 2020
Disclaimer: I received this book as an advanced reader's copy at no cost via Goodreads giveaways. However, I have not been compensated in any other way and my review is honest and objective.

I LOVED this book! Kirsten Miller has a masterpiece on her hands with How to Lead a Life Of Crime. Though written to appeal to the high school crowd, this novel is sophisticated enough to capture the attention of the 18 and over crowd as well. The writing is uncomplicated and flows well but the plot is complex. This piece is well-conceptualized; all angles have been examined to ensure the story remains plausible, the loose ends get tied up nicely, and the reader stays intrigued until its conclusion.

How to Lead a Life Of Crime presents a shocking and insightful parallel to today's world of greedy, power-hungry, seemingly invincible corporate and political hotshots. Though fictional, Kirsten Miller's newest novel retains an air of plausibility as she explores what it takes to get to the top these days, especially for those who start with nothing. Whether reading How to Lead a Life Of Crime for these insights or simply for entertainment, readers will find loveable characters, villains that seem indestructible, suspense that keeps them turning the pages, and hope for the human race.

How to Lead a Life Of Crime is the story of young Flick, a teenage boy who has faced horrors no child should endure and who has spent the last year trying to run from the demons of his past. Living on the streets of New York City's Lower East Side, he survives by picking pockets, stealing anything of value he can get his hands on, and dreaming of revenge. He is given the opportunity to get his hands on the evidence that can incriminate his abusive father, if he agrees to enroll in New York's famous Mandel Academy. For decades, Mandel Academy has been praised for its spectacular track record of taking disadvantaged youth off the streets and turning them into Ivy League graduates who range from corporate CEOs, to high-ranking politicians, to powerful and invincible attorneys. What the world isn't aware of are the methods and lessons the school is using to maintain its spotless record. Flick, obsessed with getting his hands on the evidence that will avenge his brother's murder, agrees to enroll in the academy and do whatever it takes to graduate. Soon, however, he discovers just how twisted the school's new headmaster - Lucian Mandel - is, and exactly what lengths he will go to in order to turn Flick into the academy's latest masterpiece. He is told - and shown - over and over that there are only two ways to leave the academy; he must either graduate or be expelled. Unfortunately, expulsion isn't as grand as it sounds; students who get "expelled" from Mandel are never seen or heard from again. When Flick is faced with the toughest decisions of his life, will he give up his own life to save someone else, become the monster that Lucian Mandel wants him to be, or will he find a third option he never dreamed of? Terrifically insightful, How to Lead a Life Of Crime is a story of love, self-sacrifice, the power of manipulation, and a lesson in just how much the human spirit can take before it breaks.
Profile Image for Merril Anil.
804 reviews72 followers
September 5, 2014
wickedly good

So he said let’s get into the flourishing business of crime and I said it is better to enroll into a university that can provide an extensive researched course in the world of crime first, than to get beaten up in a dark alley for trying to steal a wallet that has only maxed out credit cards and a packet of unused condoms.
- From the wicked brains of the author of this review

How to Lead a life of crime is one of those rare books where I have seen a female author come up with a book that is entirely male narrated and succeeds in bringing out the authenticity of the character and never once letting the wishful thinking of the author interrupting the nature of our character (read book like until you, point of retreat, allegiant etc etc to know what I m talking about …list is endless)

The book is brilliant and the brilliance comes from the core plot that is enhanced by a gradual and good paced development. The language is simple and engaging and so is the narration. The true star of the book is it characters. Yes, the main character / narrator definitely shine but so does each other character that is being introduced. Every one of them is shaped properly with a proper past and present and none of them are inserted by force for passing characters. The central character is charming and witty which means our author is too (right?)

There is a character named Joi in the book and I think I have fallen in love with her. She is such a strong persona that makes you love and fear her at the same time. I am in awe of the ability of the author to sketch such brilliant character that does not bleed out of their defined characteristics and comes out strongly and differently from everything you read.

I m finally getting comfortable with the young adult series where such brilliant pieces are coming out with a whole set of strong plots, impressive characters and hidden messages that are actually worth listening to than all the sex chronicles that pass for books these days.

How to lead a life of crime is a thorough entertainer that has an amazing story to tell and most importantly has characters that will steal your hearts and impresses by while doing so. The book has its strong and funny moments and makes it very thrilling. The book has a very skilled narration and language that hooks you to the book without regret. It is a joyous ride that will not creep you out. Although there is one little tiny factor. There are scenes of violence and gory acts.. (But then which movie or tv shows does not have them,…so why not in books.)which technically made me fall for this book but if you are soft hearted…just be ready with a CPR aid by your side ..just in case. Also the book could be a little lengthy but definitely not boring.

How was it

Profile Image for mich.
647 reviews230 followers
March 19, 2013
Who wouldn't love a book about an exclusive academy for criminals? Cool right? From reading the synopsis, I was expecting a certain type of story and it actually turned out to be a bit darker and grittier than I anticipated which was a nice surprise and for the most part, I liked it.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book and getting to know our main character, Flick. I usually don't fully buy it when a female author writes a male first person narrative but Miller knows what she's doing and in this case, it worked. The writing is good -- straightforward and edgy and easy to read. I especially thought the parts with Peter Pan were fantastic (you'll see), set with a mood that held just the right touch of eeriness combined with a hint of melancholy to make for some really great scenes.

As always, I'm a sucker for the academy setting and I enjoyed following Flick's maneuvering within the ranks of the elite there. I was completely sucked into the story and barely came up for air in the first half.

Unfortunately, my total and absolute enjoyment of the book didn't last and I know exactly where my interest starting fading --

I'd actually give this 3.5 stars, but will round it up instead of down here. Overall, I liked it. (But, by the way, what was up with the whole 'F--ing' thing? This book can detail graphic violence and murder, but what, the characters can't have real potty mouths? Weird.)
Profile Image for Jen.
746 reviews7 followers
March 18, 2013
How to Lead a Life of Crime felt like if Dead Poet's Society and Hunger Games had a baby, this would be their love child.

Flick is kid living on the streets who picks pockets to survive. When he's recruited to take his talents and enroll in Mandel Academy, a prestigious school that takes kids with all kinds of rough edges and spits out successful CEO's, politicians, bankers, etc, he's intrigued. When he sees the classes offered are embezzling, exploiting the environment for profit, blackmailing 101, and such, he's not sure.

I really enjoyed that even though it evoked similar stories, (mostly Hunger Games) it still felt fresh and original to me. The story had plenty of twists and turns that kept me on my toes, lots of creepiness and sinister underhandedness, and fun ethical dilemmas. I feel like stories that have tons of action typically lack in characterization-- not so here. Flick is incredibly compelling, and in a story with few sympathetic characters, it was important to have a strong protagonist to cheer on. Anyone interested in a boarding school full of sociopaths will definitely enjoy this one!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 542 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.