A teal background and the book title stenciled in yellow spray painted over dark bricks

About the Book

Title: How to Lead a Life of Crime
Published: 2013
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Step Up 2 This Cover
BFF Charm: Love
Talky Talk: Crafty
Bonus Factors: Mysterious Loner Dude, Boarding School, Battle Royale, The Illuminati
Relationship Status: Whirlwind Romance

Cover Story: Step Up 2 This Cover

Why yes, I AM referencing the greatest dance film of all time, Step Up 2: The Streets. The graffiti style and bright colors are straight out of the film’s closing credits, which I may or may not have seen approximately 50 times. But dance movie comparisons aside, this is a great cover that lets the compelling title do the work. All it takes is one glance at this badass beauty before you step up 2 the book shelf and claim it for your own.

The Deal:

Mandel Academy is a highly prestigious school that has produced the world’s most powerful CEOs and government leaders. It’s exclusive, it’s rigorous… and it’s downright criminal. Instead of classes on literature and history, students enroll in courses on blackmail, illegal drug marketing, partnering with corrupt regimes, and more. The lucky students will earn a top rank in their class and go on to extremely lucrative and influential careers. The unlucky students will be expelled. (And trust me, you don’t want to be expelled.) It’s a dangerous, highly competitive place, and failing doesn’t just mean a bad grade—it means death.

For Flick, Mandel Academy offers a chance for revenge on his tyrant father for killing Jude, Flick’s little brother. After escaping military school and spending a few weeks pick-pocketing on the streets of New York, Flick has built up a wealth of survival experience and a burning thirst for vengeance. But that may not be enough to compete with his predatory classmates, not to mention the insanely evil headmaster who considers Flick his own personal project.

P.S. I recommend avoiding the official blurb for this book unless you want to read a major spoiler.

BFF Charm: Love

BFF Charm With Benefits - a pink BFF charm with a lipstick kiss

I would be lying if I said I wanted to be besties with Flick. Because in reality, I want to JUMP HIS BONES. He’s the ultimate bad boy with a heart of gold, and being inside his head is my new favorite hangout. He’s tough and brooding and incredibly snarky, but underneath that sneering exterior, he hides a deep well of grief over the loss of his brother. I would have given anything to kiss his pain away, not just because he’s dead sexy, but also because he’s brave and compassionate (even when he tries not to be). Before this book, I didn’t think it was possible to swoon and fist pump at the same time, but after I met Flick, I became very good at multi-tasking. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Given my massive crush on the protagonist, I found this book to be incredibly foxy. Every time Flick made a razor-sharp quip or yearned to save a fellow student, I had to crank up the AC because DOES ANYONE ELSE THINK IT’S REALLY HOT IN HERE? But then Kirsten Miller had to go and add a romantic plot line featuring a girl who, I will grudgingly admit, deserves Flick. His feelings towards her make him even more attractive, if that’s possible, and while there’s not a lot of kissing, I was too busy putting out the flames in my panties to notice.

Talky Talk: Crafty

After perfecting her darkly clever style with Kiki Strike, Miller switched to a male perspective with this book, and girlfriend totally nailed it. I mean, I’m not a dude, but Flick’s voice felt incredibly authentic to me, and his unfiltered thoughts ranged from piercing emotion to pure smartass. His character is the perfect compliment to Miller’s film-noir-meets-punk-rock vibe, and when my heart wasn’t racing from the threat of danger, I was deeply amused by Flick’s sardonic attitude. From the pacing to the tone, everything about this book is masterfully calculated, resulting in a wildly absorbing ride.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

Jordan Catalano, a hot brooding stoner, in My So-Called Life

Um, Flick is OBVIOUSLY a Grade A MLD, and being in his head makes him no less mysterious.

Bonus Factor: Boarding School

Regal old boarding school building with turrets and ivy on the stone walls

Mandel Academy is the one exception to my dream of pulling a Never Been Kissed and enrolling in boarding school. But while I don’t want to attend Mandel, I had a blast reading about it. I mean, the course catalog alone is FASCINATING, plus there’s the usual politics and drama that occur when students all live together on a campus. Then there’s the unusual politics and drama that arise when these same students actually try to kill each other.

Bonus Factor: Battle Royale

A little Japanese girl, splattered in blood, smiling and clutching a stuffed animal

Speaking of kids killing each other… it isn’t an all-out war, but Mandel students will do whatever it takes to win, and if that means cutting off someone’s head, then so be it. Anyone who’s read The Hunger Games knows that this kind of high-stakes tension is THE BEST KIND.

Bonus Factor: The Illuminati

Screenshot from Eyes Wide Shut, with masked figures in cloaks performing a secret ritual

The Mandel alumni basically run the world, and I could read a whole book just about their operations. 

Relationship Status: Whirlwind Romance

I know some people don’t believe in love at first sight, but from the first moment I saw this book, I was hooked. With its unique storyline and charismatic protagonist, it was already the hottest novel in the room, and I actually couldn’t believe my luck when it started talking to me. It only took a few pages for me to fall HARD. Our time together has been completely exhilarating, and when we’re apart, I can think of nothing else. This book makes me feel alive, and I pray that Kirsten Miller will write a sequel so we can continue our incredible adventure together.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Razorbill. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions.

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.