Thursday, February 21, 2013

How to Lead a Life of Crime ~ Kirsten Miller (arc) review

How to Lead a Life of Crime
February 21, 2013
358 pages*
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

This winter is a good one for fans of author Kirsten Miller. Just a month after the release of her last book (The Darkness Dwellers: Kiki Strike #3, Bloomsbury, January 22nd) she has another new release.

How to Lead a Life of Crime is a bit like if the character of Ally Carter's Heist Society series and Holly Black's Curse Workers series (the mob part, not the magic) had a baby and sent it to a school up to no good.

Mandel Academy, under the guise of being one of Manhattan's most elite private -- and upstanding schools -- has been training criminals for years.  Those who excel graduate and find themselves made for life, those who don't . . . are gone.

Flick, a teenage pickpocket living on the streets, is one of Mandel's newest students. He has something very distinct that he wants out of the school, but is it worth what they want and what they may be going to take?

[Why, Goodreads/publisher, synopsis do you give away so much of the plot even as short as you are?]

How to Lead a Life of Crime is a lot more complex and deeper than I expected it to be going into it. I already knew author Kirsten Miller from The Eternal Ones which I loved very much (I requested this on LibraryThing prior to reading Kiki Strike), thought the school for criminals sounded like a great time and stopped there.

I have a tendency not to read the synopses provided by publishers (what's on Goodreads/Amazon or on the backs/insides of books) or to only read the beginnings of them. Too often, for me, the second halves tend to correspond to, well, the second half of the book. I hate that.

That proclivity, along with the title, did, however, have me expecting a lighter, possibly more humorous book. While I did not get what I was expecting, I got something so, so much better.

Flick, the main character and narrator has a back-story that not only gets him into the school, but makes him an incredibly dynamic character. How who he is works into the story provides a connection to his character, but also gives the story a lot of layers. Flick and his past provide a lot of emotion to the story, while his present is capable of providing quite a bit of violence, still.

So many little examples of things, specific to characters or the plot, that I want to pull out and mention but they're later in the book and/or involve too much of the story and would be spoilery, so I won't. Just know they're there and I love them?

The interactions and relationships between the characters are really pretty fantastic. There are those that are supposed to be complicated and based on intimidation and they have the uneasy air to them they need. There are the ones that have the warmth that's necessary -- all while never forgetting who Fllck is. There's a great variation in the relationships and a great complexity to those relationships.

I've never cared much about J.M. Barrie before but after this book I really want to go (carefully) read Peter Pan, at the very least.

The school almost felt reminiscent of something that would have been used in one of the Hunger Games books, in the Capitol. It was great that it wasn't just any old building or set-up similar to other schools because it's not. It's definitely in a league of its own and Miller created it to be unique. The students aren't like those you'd encounter in a run of the mill school, either. If Kiki Strike is on one end of the rule/law-breaking spectrum, Mandel Academy and its students are so far on the other end that you're still trying to get there.

I do have one pet peeve**, shall we say, with this book - and perhaps with the author. The 'F' word is used quite frequently in the novel. I say 'F' word as that's where my problem is, the word's never spelled fully. It's either, "F---" or "F---ed." How to Lead a Life of Crime is a YA novel, a mature YA novel, even so I really don't understand the reasoning behind not spelling the word. Especially as other swear words (another 'F' word, as well) are all full spelled out. Maybe in a movie it would get you an R rating, but I don't think it'll somehow make a book 'adult' and not YA.

If you're going to put a word in your book, put the whole word in. (It makes reading just that little bit unnecessarily awkward.)

Rating: 9/10

**If this is different/not true in the final/publication version, someone please let me know and I'll remove this from my review. Thanks.

Thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Penguin for my arc

*some books really make me curious as to how the layout/text/margins/whatever changes from the arc to the print book. Advance copy is 434 pages and Goodreads is listing 358 for hardcover, at least (sometimes the pages after the last numbered page are included) 76 pages is fairly significant.

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