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How to Lead a Life of Crime

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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 ...

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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?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ever since running away from military school, 17-year-old Flick has been making ends meet as a thief on the streets of New York City; his eventual goal is to avenge the death of his brother. After a heist, Flick is recruited to join the prestigious Mandel Academy, a private school whose actual purpose is to train kids in everything from extortion to murder. Flick sees this as a chance to hone his skills and gain access to his abusive criminal father (who is on the board of directors), but he gets caught up in internal politics, especially after some of his fellow students die during training. Miller (The Eternal Ones) is fully aware that she’s making use of some familiar clichés and tropes (Flick calls the school “Hogwarts for hustlers,” at one point), but she keeps every character—from Flick’s Faginesque girlfriend to the calculating head of the school—grounded and believable, giving the story’s horrors substantial impact. The resulting book often violently belies its cute title, in ways that will have readers racing to the end. Ages 14–up. Agent: William Morris Endeavor. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Caitlin Marineau
Hardened teenager Flick is living on the streets of New York, having run away from his wealthy but abusive father, whom Flick believes caused the death of his younger brother, Jude. When Flick is abruptly recruited off the street into his father’s alma mater, the prestigious Mandel Academy, the school known for creating bankers, politicians, and other powerful people out of kids who seemed destined for lives of petty crime, Flick is wary. When the head of the school offers Flick a chance at revenge against his father, however, he enrolls, only to discover the school is much more than he bargained for. Far beyond a simple prep school, the Mandel Academy grooms top criminals. At the Academy ruthlessness and cunning are prized, violence accepted, and only the strongest succeed. To survive, Flick has to learn quickly to adapt to the brutal environment, but it might come at the cost of everything he values. Not for the faint-of-heart, Miller’s work is gripping, but includes references to nearly everything from drugs and assault to rape and serial murder. Older teenage fans of works such as The Hunger Games and dark dystopian works will be intrigued by Miller’s suspenseful narrative. Reviewer: Caitlin Marineau; Ages 14 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Having run away from his privileged background, Flick survives by being a pickpocket on the streets of New York while planning revenge on his father for the death of his beloved younger brother and his mother's resulting suicide. He has a place to sleep and food to eat thanks to Joi, a mysterious girl who acts as protector to a group of runaways. Flick loves Joi and admires her, though he doesn't understand her generosity; for him, counting on and caring for others is a weakness. After a well-dressed man named Lucian Mandel asks him to break into an apartment and Flick succeeds, Lucian offers the teen a scholarship to the Mandel Academy, promising to give him proof of his father's guilt at graduation. Flick agrees, but has second thoughts when he realizes that the school prepares students to become powerful criminals through training in assassination, drug-dealing, blackmail, etc. He soon realizes that students who do not graduate disappear, permanently. When Mandel enrolls Joi, Flick is willing to give his life to keep her safe and get her out. The subject matter might appeal to reluctant readers, but the intricate plot and length will discourage most. It would also be expected that there would be a gritty realism to the vocabulary, so the constant modification of a certain four letter word into an "expletive deleted" type of format is not only jarring, but irritating. Purchase where the author's other titles are popular.—Suanne B. Roush, Osceola High School, Seminole, FL
Kirkus Reviews
A teen pickpocket attends a school for the criminally minded. Tough, 17-year-old loner Flick lives on the streets of Manhattan's Lower East Side and makes ends meet by relieving the upper class of their wallets. His only ally is a teen girl named Joi, who operates an underground rescue camp for homeless teens and wields surgical tools like a pro. Enter well-dressed, smooth-talking Lucian Mandel, the headmaster of the infamous Mandel Academy, who makes him an offer he can't refuse: If Flick agrees to enroll in Mandel Academy, Lucian will hand over the evidence that connects Flick's wealthy father to the murder of his brother. Flick agrees, and he soon finds himself immersed in a student body of teen sociopathic murderers, liars, thieves and embezzlers--all embroiled in a violent race to the top of the class. Miller pens an enjoyable, fast-paced action novel that's full of danger, mystery, humor and violence, with lots of gross-out scenes and plenty of hairpin-turn plot twists that will keep readers guessing. Her only misstep in this exciting read is an overdose of references to Barrie's Peter Pan, but readers will still make the right connections to the characters and probably devour the novel in one setting. An enigmatic page turner full of intrigue. (Adventure. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595146496
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • Publication date: 2/20/2014
  • Pages: 358
  • Sales rank: 218,492
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Kirsten Miller

Kirsten Miller is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Eternal Ones, as well as All You Desire and the acclaimed Kiki Strike books. She lives in Brooklyn, where it’s always wise to think like a criminal. Find out more at 
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I have been dying to read How to Lead a Life of Crime by author

    I have been dying to read How to Lead a Life of Crime by author Kirsten Miller. Everything in the description sounded absolutely up my aisle and after finishing the awesome first chapter I knew that I was in love with this novel. Everything that I was hoping for and more happened in How to Lead a Life of Crime and I couldn’t be any happier. This novel is definitely the kind for readers who want to read a novel that is the Delcroix Academy series (by Inara Scott) meets every worthwhile action movie I’ve ever seen.

    How to Lead a Life of Crime follows the life of main character Flick, a teenage pickpocket and runaway with a tragic past. When a man picks Flick up to perform a job for him, Flick finds himself in the same world he tried to escape and yet it’s a whole other side of the spectrum. At the Mandel Academy, a notorious New York school with only the best students, teens are learning a lot more than how to calculate numbers. They’re learning how to commit proper frauds, how to get rid of a dead body and how to kill anybody who stands in their way. Flick agrees to attend the school on one condition: He gets some dirt on his father who killed Flicker’s mother and little brother.

     Inside of the Mandel Academy killers and street thugs are brought in to become the future of the world and are viewed as ‘Prodigies’. However the students who are not the best of the best are killed as a form of expulsion from the academy.  As Flick delves deeper into the Mandel Academy he learns about the dark secrets being kept within the Academy’s walls. He then discovers that the Academy’s headmaster isn’t who he appears to be and that he has a much darker agenda for Flick.

    I’ll admit that my only real problems with How to Lead a Life of Crime was how off the pacing was and how some scenes with Joi came off as unrealistic compared to the rest of the novel. Other than that I have no complaints. I have no reason to complain about anything. I found that the plot was so easy to get lost in and every single chapter ended with me needing to know what would happen next. The one thing that really kept me interested were all the possible antagonists for the story and how nobody is ever as they appear to me. The biggest surprise would have to be who Gwendolyn really is and what Mandel is searching for in the dead bodies. Mandel is delusional and obsessed with producing sociopaths from the Academy. The lengths that that man would go to shocked me and there were tons of moments when all I wanted was for Flick to beat his face in or kill him. Two things our main character really is capable of.

    I’ve never really come across a character like Flick and I think that he is the type of guy a lot of female readers will swoon over. He’s got the tall, dark and brooding thing down. However what I really liked about Flick was his personality and mind. Flick is a loyal character whose motives are solely based on revenge and I really enjoyed that. What I also loved about him was his caring for his love interest Joi even after being apart from her for so long and how he wishes things could have gone better between the two of them. Gah, those feels. What really had me interested in Flick despite all of those things was Peter Pan; the figment of Flick’s imagination/image of his little brother that appears around him.

    I’d recommend How to Lead a Life of Crime to fans of action novels, readers who are looking for a novel that they  won’t want to put down and those of us who just want to read a boarding school novel that is NOT like any others out there.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2013

    (Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a re

    (Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Razorbill and Netgalley.)
    Flick has lived on the streets for a few years. He hates his father, and his brother is dead, so he’s on his own.

    Flick lives by stealing – wallets, mobile phones etc, and the only person he can call a friend is a girl called Joi (pronounced Joey), who unofficially runs a basement safe place for kids who are on the streets.

    When Flick is approached by a man in a posh car and asked to do a job for him for $500, he agrees, and sets about breaking into an apartment building and stealing the documents the man wants. The man then offers him a place at the ‘Mandel’ academy, a posh school in Manhattan, who his father is actually on the board of directors for. But this academy is no ordinary school, at Mandel they teach you how to commit crimes.
    Does Flick really want to join the academy? Would he be better off on the streets? And what exactly is he letting himself in for if he does decide to join?

    Apologies to the author, but this book was just dull. I mean I actually found myself falling asleep in places.

    Firstly we have the massive info dumps. Flick gets these huge lectures from the headmaster at the academy, and we have to sit through them. Lengthy history lessons about how the academy came about, what the point is, the different majors you can take, etc. Way too much information in way too short a period of time. I really did not find this interesting at all.

    The characters were also pretty dull, and I really didn’t feel anything for any of them. Flick was okay, Joi was just pretty meh, and I couldn’t even bring myself to hate the ‘bad’ characters; they were all just a bit nothingness to me.

    I’ve read reviews that have compared this book to Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games. I’m sorry, but to me this was like neither. You could say that it was like Harry Potter in that Flick attends a new school, but that’s about as far as the comparison goes, and The Hunger Games? There is more excitement in the first chapter of The Hunger Games than in the whole of this book.

    Whether I just didn’t find the story interesting, and that is why I found it so boring, I don’t know – it’s quite possible, but if I don’t find it interesting, I can only assume that other people wouldn’t find it interesting either. I really can’t recommend this book, I’m sure somebody would enjoy this, but it just bored the pants of me.
    4 out of 10.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    Sounds Amazing!!

    I wish I could be in this school. Future serial killer... I would be amazing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 4, 2014

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    Posted April 21, 2013

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    Posted June 11, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2014

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