Review: How To Lead A Life Of Crime

how to lead a life of crime

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?

I AM SO EXCITED TO REVIEW THIS BOOK! I actually read it in early August, but there were loads of other posts that I also wanted to write and as a result I am sooooo behind on my book reviews. Well, I’m trying to fix that now.

Kirsten Miller is one of my favorite authors, but unfortunately she’s not very well known. I know the cover of How to Lead a Life of Crime says she is a New York Times bestselling author, but hardly ANYONE I know has even so much as heard of her. Sigh.

I’ve read almost everything she’s written and it’s all been amazing, so YOU SHOULD TRY HER BOOKS TOO.

All right, time for the review.

This review is spoiler-free!

This book’s cover is great.

I know this isn’t an observation on the actual STORY, but just bear with me here, OK? How to Lead a Life of Crime has an amazing cover and here is why:

  • It’s colorful and therefore quite eye-catching
  • It’s very minimalist
  • The title becomes its own sort of cover art
  • The graffiti-ish cover makes a lot of sense considering the subject of the book (crime)

I was a little thrown by the male narrator, but I quickly adjusted to it.

All of Miller’s other books are narrated by girls… and I didn’t know anything about How to Lead a Life of Crime before I began reading it, so I just assumed this was another girl-narrated story. I expected to read about girls kicking butt, because that’s what Miller generally writes about.

Well, I ended up reading about a boy who kicks butt. I’m not saying that this was a bad thing – it was just unexpected.

I loved how RUTHLESS the characters were.

I mean, I obviously wouldn’t want to know people like them in real life, but it was neat to read about them. I flipped through page after page as quickly as I could, anxious to see what happened next. WHO WAS GOING TO MAKE IT TO THE END?! These characters may be just kids, but man. They were vicious to one another.

I loved the descriptions of Mandel Academy’s bizarre classes!

At the school, one can study such courses as:

  • Basic Electronics: From Credit Card Skimmers to Key Stroke Loggers
  • The Art of Persuasion: Influence Peddling, Coercion, and Extortion
  • Assassination Techniques
  • Partnering with Corrupt Regimes

And if you’d like to read about more, the author ever-so-nicely created a PDF version of the Mandel Course Catalog!

After reading this novel, I started wondering what exactly it is that Kirsten Miller does in her free time.

All right, all right, that was a joke. I’m sure she isn’t a criminal. She’s probably a very sweet lady who, like, pets soft kittens and helps old people cross the street.

But it is kind of weird that all her books are about crime. Her Kiki Strike series is about delinquent teenage girls using crime to fight even worse criminals.

The Eternal Ones and its sequel All You Desire (which I haven’t yet read) are about a girl who has been hunted by criminals throughout all her lifetimes. (The books are about reincarnation. It’s a complicated story. And a great one. I’m going to review both books together as soon as I’ve finished the second one.)

And now there’s How to Lead a Life of Crime. Which is ABOUT criminals.

I suppose Kirsten Miller is ever so slightly fascinated by crime. Maybe. Possibly.


All I can say now is: READ IT. PLEASE. How to Lead a Life of Crime is action-packed, creative, and very unusual. I loved it and I think you would too!

Rating: 4/5

About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
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8 Responses to Review: How To Lead A Life Of Crime

  1. Miriam Joy says:

    I feel like I should read this, given the novel I just wrote about an assassin… that’s a point, maybe if you liked this you might like to beta for me? No pressure though. 🙂

    Anyway, I think I added this on Goodreads already, because it looks intriguing. No clue when, if ever, I’ll come across a copy, though…

    • nevillegirl says:

      You should definitely read it. 🙂 I think you’d really enjoy it!
      (Hmmm, I’d like to, but between schoolwork/reading/writing I’ve been pretty busy… I could possibly beta it over winter break, but I don’t know how soon you want comments on it.)

  2. Mo says:


    *dainty throat clearing* I read this sometime in the spring and went through it really quickly and then reread it just a couple weeks ago. And I really like it. Yeah. So. Um.

  3. Cait from Notebook sisters recommended this, and now you – looks like I’m going to have to find it at a library somewhere! And we’re going to be studying crime in legal studies soon…it totally relates…

  4. thelonglifeofalifelongfangirl says:

    It sounds pretty good; although as it’s had some very mixed reviews on Amazon, I might look for it in the library first just in case I don’t like it 😛 From the premise it reminds me a little of Mark Walden’s “H.I.V.E” series, in which children are sent to a school in order to learn to become villains/criminals – and I’m enjoying the first book in that, so How To Lead a Life of Crime may appeal to me as well!

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