I love finding awesome books that have flown beneath the radar and haven’t really blown the book blogging world up. Y’all, I haven’t seen a ton of reviews of How To Lead A Life Of Crime by Kirsten Miller and so didn’t quite know what to expect. Luckily, the book was like a diamond in the rough. I found that reading it was a good life choice as it is very well written and let’s be frank: FRICKEN MAR-VEL-OUS in a freaky, dark close my eyes for a few seconds and look away while reading sort of fashion. You guys, I am about to push How To Lead A Life Of Crime on you so hard, because it is THAT GOOD.
Flick has not had an easy life. While he comes from a wealthy background, his dad is very abusive and ends up murdering his brother — which leads to his mom committing suicide. Instead of returning home to his family’s Connecticut mansion, Flick ends up living on the streets of New York City instead with a group of orphans. The orphans are cared for by Joi, a very gorgeous girl who is romantically entangled with Flick. When a mysterious stranger offers Flick a spot at the prestigious Mandel Academy and the revenge he so desperately wants against his father, he accepts. With course offerings on how to hack into people’s bank accounts and the art of blackmail, Mandel Academy is all about teaching career, white collar criminals. Unfortunately, not every student makes it out of Mandel Academy alive. Y’all, this book, How To Lead A Life Of Crime is psychologically twisted in the very best possible way.
I started out How To Lead A Life Of Crime feeling buckets of empathy for Flick – at the hand he has been dealt in life. What really made me feel for him were his visions of his brother as Peter Pan — which FYI weaves in a cool sort of literary, symbolic thread. Trust, it’s done in SUCH a smart fashion. Anyways, Flick ended up earning my respect and admiration. He’s smart. He’s a good guy, even when he thinks he’s not. Further, he is never portrayed as a perfect person, as readers we see how far Flick has to come and how much he needs to learn. I liked that he had some failings and that he wasn’t some messiah. Also? Flick is the quintessential badass, no doubt.
What surprised me about How To Lead A Life Of Crime by Kirsten Miller was just how intelligent it was. Sure, I go into books expecting them to be awesome – why would I read books that I expect to suck? But I rarely go in expecting much more than entertainment. What I got with this read was a deep need to discuss what just happened and a need to discuss the themes. One theme that is central to what I read is that of nature vs. nurture and, to get repetitive, the nature of evil. It’s consistently portrayed throughout the book as Lucian Mandel (the mysterious stranger) tries to shape and influence Flick to do evil things. We see characters who have parents that are by all means very, very bad people. We also see characters who don’t have awful parents. It’s a fascinating theme and I am so glad to say that Kirsten Miller utilized it to it’s full potential. So, if you like books that get a bit cerebral but don’t sacrifice plot and action, you’ll be so totally down for this.
I want to warn you that going into How To Lead A Life Of Crime will not be a light hearted, silly affair. Rather, it is gritty and dark and legitimately scary. I mean, there were definitely parts where I found myself closing my eyes, like during a scary movie. Of course, I opened them and kept reading. Still, the mood of Miller’s book is very, very dark. And you know, it actually really works for the story. It makes the stakes feel that much more real. I felt so invested in the characters and hoped against hope that things would turn out okay for most of the people involved with the book, and that in the end things would be ‘fair.’
Straight up, this book is very, very good. I am kind of bummed out that only a handful of my friends have read it, as it is SUPER amazing. Yes, it’s long. Yes, it’s heavy. Yes, it goes to some scary places. Yet, it is well-done and I felt everything happened in the book for a reason. It wasn’t one of those reads where the violence feels gratuitous. Also, there are a few swoon worthy moments. AND AND there is no cliffhanger, but an epilogue! And one that does not suck. I was extremely satisfied with How To Lead A Life Of Crime by Kirsten Miller and wholeheartedly recommend you read it. AND THEN G-CHAT ME ABOUT IT!
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley
Other reviews of How To Lead A Life Of Crime by Kirsten Miller:
Alice Marvels – “a shocking and entertaining thrill ride.”
Fiction Freak – “The way Miller pulled this idea off was stunning”
Tripping Over Books – “dark, psychologically intense, and effed up in general.”