How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller (Penguin Young Readers Group – Razorbill), 2013. ISBN: 978-1595145185. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS
Imagine Blade Runner meeting Harry Potter and then getting locked up with characters from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and you’d have the flavor of this one. Flick’s been living on the street and surviving by becoming an accomplished pickpocket. He’s pretty much numbed out after years of being beaten by his ultra-successful father, who looks perfect to the rest of the world, but is a monster at home after he’s consumed a certain amount of scotch. After Flick left, Dad turned on his younger brother and hit him one too many times, killing him. It was covered up, but Flick knows it was murder and would do anything to get a chance for revenge. In the mean time, he’s fallen in love with an exotic street girl named Joi who’s taken it upon herself to rescue as many homeless kids as possible. Even though Flick loves her, he forces himself to leave because his need for revenge is stronger than his feelings for her.
When he’s approached by Lucien Mandel who wants to recruit him for the ultra elite and secret Mandel Academy, Flick starts to blow him off, but Lucien makes him an offer he can’t refuse. If he agrees and makes it to graduation, He’ll get a file full of proof his father killed his brother.
The Academy will remind many of the training Katniss and her competitors went through in preparation for the Hunger Games, but it runs full semesters, there’s a top student known as a Dux and the lowest in each class, while supposedly are allowed to go home after they fail out, end up with a far grimmer fate. As Flick gets to know the other students and begins to realize how completely corrupt the whole process is, Lucien ups the ante and all of a sudden Flick is in direct competition for the top spot with the love of his life, Joi, but he can hard;y recognize the cold, hardened and ruthless girl who has no problem taking down and terrorizing even the most ruthless students.
How this all plays out is not only full-out screech, but replete with a bunch of twists that kept me up well into the wee hours so I could finish it. Violent, profane and addictive, it’s a YA Edgar Nominee and a great suggestion for mature teens.