Published February 21st 2013 by Razorbill
A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer.Imagine a city full of criminals - any big city, right? Imagine a city that caters to these individuals. A city with a huge, prestigious school crafted just for them. Enter Mandel Academy, an exclusive and prestigious school located right in the big apple. On the outside the academy appears to be a school that boasts amazing opportunities and some of the most gifted children of the country. In reality, the school is a dark place filled with terrors.
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?
Not only does Mandel Academy train unprivileged children to become high class criminals, it goes to much darker limits. Children are executed if they don't make the cut. Brains are manipulated. Students are used in one big scheme, all without their knowledge. These kids aren't students - they're prisoners.
Our main character, Flick, starts out on the streets of Manhattan, stealing from the rich and the privileged. When a mysterious man hires him as a thief for a simple job, he has no clue what he is getting into. Soon enough he is whisked off and brought in as Mandel Academy's only volunteer student. The only catch? He isn't much of a volunteer at all. He's a prisoner just like all the rest, one who slowly starts to catch on and discover all the secrets of the school.
Flick was a unique character. He was tough - there was no doubt about that - but not so much that he seemed inhuman, unlike many of the other kids at the school. Many of the top students, people Flick nicknamed Wolves, seemed to have no conscious. They killed and didn't feel a thing. While Flick definitely had some pent up anger needing to be resolved, he had feelings and weaknesses, just as a good character should.
Early on in the story we are introduced to Joi, the love interest of Flick. Their romance was very believable, nothing too sappy. There was anger and heartbreak, it was realistic and not overdone. Joi has a bad-side to her as well, but you can tell she is meant for good deeds. Yes, she shoplifts quite a bit, but when it comes down to it she is a saint that is out there to help other kids in bad situations live better lives. I admired her and liked how she could put other people above herself but be strong when needed as well.
How to Lead a Life of Crime was a gripping novel that had me turning the pages as fast as I could. The amount of crime shocked me, me being from a small town with a population of 1000. It was gruesome at times but it fit in with the story nicely. Crime, suspense and mystery, this one wins a big plus in my book.