How to Steal a Car

How to Steal a Car

4.0 12
by Pete Hautman

View All Available Formats & Editions

From National Book Award winner Pete Hautman, the story of a girl who acts out by stealing cars.

Some girls act out by drinking or doing drugs. Some girls act out by sleeping with guys. Some girls act out by starving themselves or cutting themselves. Some girls act out by being a bitch to other girls.
Not Kelleigh.
Kelleigh steals cars.

In How to Steal


From National Book Award winner Pete Hautman, the story of a girl who acts out by stealing cars.

Some girls act out by drinking or doing drugs. Some girls act out by sleeping with guys. Some girls act out by starving themselves or cutting themselves. Some girls act out by being a bitch to other girls.
Not Kelleigh.
Kelleigh steals cars.

In How to Steal a Car, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman takes teen readers on a thrilling, scary ride through one suburban girl's turbulent life - one car theft at a time.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kelleigh Monahan, an atypically underprogrammed American teen, has just two assignments before the start of sophomore year: read Moby-Dick and write a “how to” essay of “acceptable quality.” She hangs at the mall with her best friend, Jen, and occasionally with their co-boyfriend, Will. Like a person who picks a fight in order to feel some emotion, Kelleigh starts stealing cars, first as a lark but quickly escalating to truly risky business. Kelleigh has no remorse; her introspection extends mostly to how her crimes compare to her lawyer father's use of a technicality to win the release of a serial rapist. “Who's the real criminal here?” Hautman (Godless) seems to be asking. Kelleigh is a sharp observer, especially of her parents' strained marriage, and she has an appealing wisecracker's wit: “Once you're a teenager, adults stop talking about the crazy stuff they used to do, and they start acting as if they were raised by the Amish.” Her worldview, however, remains bleak, as this what-I-did-last-summer story concludes: “Sooner or later everybody turns out to be a disappointment.” Ages 13–up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Suzanna E. Henshon
Kelleigh Monahan, age fifteen, is a sweet, All-American girl. She does not drink or do drugs. Instead of getting into trouble, Kelleigh reads Herman Melville's classic novel, Moby Dick. One day Kelleigh sees a man drop a set of keys. Instead of running after the man and returning the keys, Kelleigh decides to take the car for a spin. She steps inside and enjoys the thrill of a stolen ride. What could be more exciting? Soon Kelleigh makes good money stealing cars and becomes part of the underworld of car thieves. Every now and then, Kelleigh steals a car until it becomes an uncontrollable addiction. Could she stop stealing now, even if she wanted to? Would her life be boring without this illicit hobby? One day Kelleigh takes the wrong car and the owner jumps on the windshield as she is driving away. In this fun and realistic story, young adults will enjoy taking a ride with National Book winner Pete Hautman. Readers will find Kelleigh to be an honest and appealing heroine who is trapped by her addiction—stealing cars. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—It's summertime in the Minneapolis suburbs, and 15-year-old Kelleigh doesn't smoke, drink (except a few times), do drugs, or do anything bad, really, except steal cars. Her career starts innocently at the mall when she sees a guy drop his keys in the parking lot. Kelleigh keeps them as a "souvenir" and soon discovers that the owner lives near her. One evening, she and her friend Jen take his Altima for a joyride. As the jam-packed plot unfolds, Kelleigh deals with unresolved issues regarding her best friends, Jen and Will; her lawyer father's adultery and decision to defend a known rapist; and her mother's use of alcohol and cigarettes to cope. She manages life by continuing to steal cars. Hautman packs a dense plot into this slim title and intermingles Kelleigh's story with two summer homework assignments: a reading of Moby-Dick and a "How-to" essay, for which the teen chooses the topic of stealing cars. Hautman's characters start off simple and likable, and Kelleigh has just enough sarcasm and teen angst to be endearing. However, as the story unfolds, the characters become inherently flawed with real human problems and vulnerabilities, and Kelleigh becomes an empty, judgmental girl who seeks to fill her life's voids with cheap thrills. Through her actions, the author allows readers to evaluate the protagonist's life and choices.—Adrienne L. Strock, Maricopa County Library District, AZ
Kirkus Reviews
Hautman channels the cynically smart voice of a teenage sometime car thief in this sly cross between Blake Nelson's The New Rules of High School (2003) and Peter Cameron's Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (2007). Fifteen-year-old Kelleigh is bored. Her staid parents politely leave her alone, her two best friends talk about the same old things and she's stuck with Moby-Dick for her summer-reading selection. So she begins stealing cars, quickly escalating from joy riding in her elderly neighbors' Caddy to plotting the theft of a stranger's Mercedes. Teens will identify with Kelleigh's challenges to boundaries and attempts to see how many rules she can break before anyone in authority can be bothered to notice. Kelleigh soon decides that while "I stole a couple cars . . . It's not who I am." However, the illegal thrill causes her to realize she has outgrown her suburban-Twin Cities world, and an unrepentant ending behind stolen wheels suggests she is destined to leave it behind. A sharply observed, subversive coming-of-age tale. (Fiction. 13 & up)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Pete Hautman won the National Book Award for his novel Godless. He is also the author of the acclaimed novels The Big Crunch, How to Steal a Car, Rash, Invisible, Sweetblood, Hole in the Sky, No Limit, and Mr. Was. His home in the world is Minnesota, and his home on the web is

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

How to Steal a Car 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this is an amazing book that, though it may not be incredibly action-packed, it really looks deeply into why people do things that others can't imagine doing, very realistically. I enjoyed it greatly, and would recommend it to people who enjoy books with a bit of crime in it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One thing is not to take cars screw cars what about boats
MundyC More than 1 year ago
How to steal a car is about a girl who would rather steal a car than do drugs. It all started when Kelleigh and Jen were sitting out side of the mall and sees a guy who drops his keys. So Kelleigh takes them for a drive. After that she helps her friends steal cars and ends up stealing at least like 7. This book is really good. It was a really fast read and was very exciting. In this book you never want to put it down. I would recomend this book to people who don't like reading. It is a fast and interesting book to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Kelleigh Monahan doesn't drink, do drugs, talk back, or do any of the other things girls usually do to act out. In fact, if it weren't for a series of bizarre coincidences, Kelleigh wouldn't even have become a car thief in How to Steal a Car (2009) by Pete Hautman. The first car, the Nissan, was barely even stolen. And after that, well, steal one car and suddenly everyone expects you to be a regular car thief or something. That isn't to say that this book is an action packed heist book. It's not. Despite its title, How to Steal a Car is more about the ennui and general frustration so often associated with suburban life--especially for teens. Kelleigh is surrounded by people lulled into complacency by their quiet, suburban town while she, much like Moby Dick's Ishmael as quoted in the beginning of the story, wants nothing more than to run away. Or, as luck would have it, to drive away in someone else's car. How to Steal a Car is an interesting, super fast read. Unfortunately that does not make it particularly compelling. While Kelleigh's ennui was palpable, she remained painfully one dimensional as a character. Hautman's portrayal of the rest of the characters in the novel were similarly lacking in depth. The story was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end, but the Kelleigh at the end of the story was basically the same Kelleigh we met at the beginning: a girl frustrated with her life and unsure what to do to fix it. Possible Pairings: The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, Rx by Tracy Lynn, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Gone in Sixty Seconds (movie).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As someone who is constantly reading, I'll be honest and say this book is nothing spectacular. That being said, I have read it about three times. No, it's not some earth-shatteringnovel but for those who enjoy a quick but enjoyable read, this is an excellent book for you.
Carrie McFadden More than 1 year ago
Nikkayme More than 1 year ago
Pete Hautman has a way with words that is so blunt, so matter of fact, that you can't help but be interested. How To Steal A Car isn't all that action-packed, despite the subject matter, because of Hautman's writing style; yet I was wholly intrigued by it. Kelleigh Monahan is a 15 year old smart girl with a nice best friend who she sort of shares a maybe gay boyfriend with. Her life doesn't appear to be too complicated. She has a nice mom and lawyer dad who works constantly, but then, out of nowhere, she starts stealing cars. Hautman's foray into Kelleigh's thoughts about her life and her new hobby are funny, and somehow make perfect sense. In a way, Kelleigh's newfound desire to boost cars is understandable. She gets an odd rush from it even though it has no purpose for her. And it lets her escape the things in her life she would like to avoid. How To Steal A Car is a short read that kept me interested, but it was lacking in direction. I was hoping there would be some kind of conclusion to Kelleigh's story and her car thievery, but it just ends. No conclusion, no solid ending. I want to know what happens next. What happens to Kelleigh? What happens to her family (who really aren't as great as they first seem)? And does she ever get caught? Does she even care? This was still a good read, though maybe directed at a younger YA audience. Kelleigh is 15 and there is talk of alcohol, drugs, and sex, but nothing of the sort is ever explicitly discussed. Opening line: The way this whole thing got started was completely coincidental and not like I planned it or anything. ~ pg. 1 Favorite lines: "You going to law school too, Kelleigh?" "Actually, I'm thinking of becoming a criminal. To give the lawyers something to do." ~ pg. 88
M_Allred More than 1 year ago
The book How to Steal a Car is a story about a pretty calm and boring girl named Keighly, that once she steals a car just for the fun of it just can't seem to get enough. It has become almost a drug to her, and even though she tries to stop she always wants more. Before long the local criminal Deke Mofit has seen her stealing cars, and offers her a job that could make her a little extra money. Although she thinks this idea is terrible, and knows she shouldn't she just can't stay away and agrees to take the job. What will happen to keighly? Will she get caught? In my opinion the book was very average overall. The book was an easy read, and to be honest that is why I choose it for my reading book. But it lacked too far behind in the vocabulary and overall level of content that I am use to. I did however like the theme of the book, and how original it is. There was a good amount of dialogue and the characters seemed interesting, but given the opportunity I probably would not read this book again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Kelleigh never meant to become a car thief. She just happened to see a guy drop his keys without noticing one day at the mall, and thought it'd be a thrill to grab them. With a best friend who's always telling her how boring she is, a defense attorney dad who cares more about getting a serial rapist off the hook than what's going on in his daughter's life, and a "boyfriend" who never makes a move on her, maybe it's not a surprise that Kell decides to take that thrill a little further. But once she's started, Kell finds that the rush of car-stealing is hard to give up. She starts out small, taking her dad's car for a spin in the middle of the night, sneaking into her neighbor's house with an emergency spare key to borrow their ride. But as her parents seem to grow even more distant - from her and from each other - and her friends stay oblivious to the changes taking place inside her, she pushes the risk further and further. And there's no way of knowing how this chase scene will end. Kell has a distinctive, engaging voice that will pull the reader into the story from the start. Though her behavior may seem bizarre, her reasons are clear enough to be believable and sympathetic. Her sense of humor will bring laughs even as readers cringe at the situations she gets herself into. Her growing disillusionment with her parents and friends is poignant and realistic. This is a relatively short read, and difficult to put down as you wonder how much trouble Kell will get herself into, and how she'll get out of it. The conclusion is open-ended, which may frustrate some readers, but it feels fitting to her story. A great contemporary read for anyone who loves quirky narrators!
Annika Bergquist More than 1 year ago