You Read What? Book Review: How to Lead A Life of Crime

Author: Kirsten Miller

Publisher: Penguin Canada

  • Imprint: Razorbill Canada

Date Published: February 21st 2013

Format: Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC)/Paperback

Source: Razorbill Canada/Penguin Canada


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?

Number of Days It Took to Read: 4


How to Lead a Life of Crime

Love this cover. It really jumped out among the other ARCs at the Penguin’s Blogger Night a few weeks back. The graffiti design with the pairing of the blue and yellow made it an instant favourite of mine.

The Writing Score: 4.5 out of 5

Recommendation: Must Read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


So what I’ve done with this book that I haven’t done with others was to read it at the same time as my friend Tiff over at Mostly YA Lit as a type of read along. We created a Google doc where we’d update our thoughts as the book progressed and made sure to indicate where we were in the book so to avoid any spoilers for whoever is falling behind.

We both agreed that this book was amazing.

I feel like there’s more to it (much more) than what the synopsis tells you and it was such a pleasant surprise especially in it’s writing. The first couple of chapters sets us up for what we all want to read from the synopsis above but if we never move forward from this set up, I would’ve been fine. It really did feel like a contemporary book with refreshing and wonderful writing that sucked me in from the first word. It was nothing like the fast paced, thriller, dystopian-esque feel I was expecting…at least not at the beginning. All of these expected feelings were met and surpassed as the book went on. Miller introduced strong, three dimensional characters who I really loved, despised and/or pitied. The villains here were not your cookie cutter villains that would exist only in fiction (at least not most) but bad guys who we hear about in the news/real life constantly.

The students in the Mandel Academy make Shatter Me’s Warner look like upstanding citizen.

It was nice to read about boy protagonist and Miller was spot on with the POV. I loved Flick. He was the bad boy with a heart of gold but done in a way where he didn’t exactly fit the troupe. Joi (pronounced Joey) was a fantastic female character. Bonuses in this book included the various (and at times geeky) metaphors that made my heart pound in excitement. I love the constant Peter Pan comparisons/parallels that were huge in the book which also taught me a few new things about the Pan man.

I do have some criticisms which may have been fixed given that my book is an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC).

It was long. The ARC clocks at 434 pages but the finished copy is 358 pages so this may not even be relevant. Joi was introduced far too late and there were sections in the book that can be condensed (again, this may have already happened. I’d have to read the finished copy and update this review). I felt like the end plot of the story was far too complicated or that there were way too many reveals in such a small span of time. This criticisms were mentioned only because I noticed how long it was taking me to read it which isn’t a good sign (at least when it’s a conscious thought) but again, this may have already been rectified in the finished copy and it wasn’t a huge deal at the time. Also, I would have liked the swearing to be explicit versus just using F—. It would have enhanced this particular story and, as long as it was needed or fit the character, it should be fine but because it was used often, the “F—” distracted me.

Overall, it was a fantastic read and deserved a lot more publicity because of how well done it was.


I never bring up who I think should play a character (or characters) in a book if it was going to be a movie but I couldn’t help it for this one. I think Robert Sheehan would make an awesome Flick.

(Robert Sheehan)

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.

One thought on “You Read What? Book Review: How to Lead A Life of Crime

  1. I’m really intrigued by this book. It doesn’t sound like something I would normally read but your review has made me super curious. May have to pick it up after all

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