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1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater


How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. HOW I PAID FOR COLLEGE has been described as “if David Sedaris had re-imagined THE CATCHER IN THE RYE.” Do you think the analogy to THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is appropriate and, if so, how?

2. The book is set in the fictional bedroom community of Wallingford, NJ. Could it have been set in another part of the country and, if so, where and why?

3. The story takes place in 1983-84, Ronald Reagans “Morning in America.” How do you think the Reaganite atmosphere affects the behavior of the characters? How are todays teenagers different from those in the 1980s and how do you think they would act in similar circumstances?

4. During the book, Edward is confused about his sexuality. What do you think of this confusion? Is he straight, gay or bisexual? How does his sexuality impact his plans and schemes?

5. In most classic coming of age stories, the parents are either absent, unavailable or dispensed with quickly. (Think of Holden Caulfield, Huck Finn and Harry Potter.) What is the point of having the parents be absent and what do you think would have happened if Edwards parents had been around?

6. What role do the supportive adults (Aunt Glo, Mr. Lucas and Kathleen) play in Edwards life?

7. HOW I PAID FOR COLLEGE is in development at Columbia Pictures to become a major motion picture. Who do you see playing the characters?

8. Edward and his friends are obsessed with musical theater. What do the musicals discussed (GREASE/A CHORUS LINE, PIPPIN/YENTL) illustrate about the characters?

9. When Edward visits Mr. Lucas apartment, Mr. Lucas talks about how books gave him a reason to live after his accident (“I kept reading, just to stay alive. In fact, Id read two or three books at the same time, just so I wouldnt finish one without being in the middle of another-anything to stop me from falling into the big, gaping void”). What do books and reading mean to you?

10. Throughout the book, other works of literature are referenced (OEDIPUS REX, ANTIGONE, HAMLET, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, DAVID COPPERFIELD, PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN and GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN) How do these works relate to the themes in HOW I PAID FOR COLLEGE?

11. Throughout the book, various religious elements are present (a Buddha, a New Age mom, nuns and priests; Edward even plays Jesus in GODSPELL). Discuss the relevance of the religious imagery and its significance

12. Along the same lines, discuss the relevance of Frank Sinatra.

13. In Greek drama, a deus ex machina refers to the entrance of a god (on a piece of stage machinery) who uses his divine powers to solve all the mortals problems. HOW I PAID FOR COLLEGE contains a very intentional deus ex machina. How does it relate to the themes of the book?

14. The complicated plot is set in motion by Edwards overwhelming desire to be an actor. But, after reading the book, do you think Edward would be successful as an actor?

15. Is there a moral to HOW I PAID FOR COLLEGE?

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

stephanie, May 22, 2007 (view all comments by stephanie)
One of my all-time favorites. Reads like a good conversation and Acito is hilarious with a keen eye for detail. Saw him read/perform in person and greatly enjoyed that as well.
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Product Details

Musical Theater
Acito, Marc
New York
Teenage boys
Fund raising
New jersey
High school students
Humorous fiction
Amateur theater
College and school drama
General Fiction
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Publication Date:
September 7, 2004
Grade Level:
8.32x5.80x.89 in. .96 lbs.

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Related Subjects

» Featured Titles » Oregon Book Award Winners
» Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
» Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Coming of Age

How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.50 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Broadway Books - English 9780767918411 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Former theatre geeks unite! I truly enjoyed this nostalgic romp through the life of Edward Zanni, a young thespian in suburban New Jersey. Edward's quest to attend Juilliard and the madness and mayhem that surround him turn the pages of this great story. This book is like a John Hughes movie — with a much better ending.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Portland humor columnist Acito debuts with dazzling comic panache in this story of a teenage would-be swindler and budding drama queen. Edward Zanni is dying to escape boring Wallingford, N.J., for the hallowed halls of Juilliard, and he's got a pretty good chance at it. It's summer, and he's palling around with his fellow Play People, who include his gorgeous girlfriend, Kelly, and his hot jock pal, Doug, and dreaming of stardom. The fly in the ointment is Zanni's money-obsessed father, Al, who pulls the financial plug on Edward's Juilliard dream after marrying a trophy babe, a beautiful, icy Teutonic model named Dagmar. Edward counters dad's penny-pinching by moving in with Kelly's family to establish financial independence for a scholarship, but bombs at several minimum-wage jobs. How will he pay for college now that his audition — really a public mental breakdown — got him in? His devious buddy, Nathan, concocts a plan to steal from gold-digging Dagmar, who's been siphoning Al's cash into a secret account. Edward and pals set up a fake nonprofit designed to award a Juilliard scholarship to someone born in Hoboken (Edward) — but there's a problem. Acito nails his scenes one after another, from Edward's shifting (but always enthusiastic) sexuality to the silly messes he gets himself into. The result is a thumbs-up winner from a storyteller whose future looks as bright as that of his young hero. Agent, Edward Hibbert. (Sept.) Forecast: Acito's playful, nuanced treatment of sexual exploration and lively plot should make this an appealing choice for older YA readers as well as adults." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Acito proves himself worthy of whatever praise people may want to throw his way....The outsider edge...never devolves into snobbishness and keeps the free-form story humming hilariously along. High school as it should have been."
"Review" by , "Marc Acito's rollicking first novel is, by turns, sweet, sexy, and outrageous. Powered by the author's devious imagination, the story shows us a handful of teenagers driven to larceny, embezzlement, and impersonation — all in the name of higher education. Beneath the story's beguiling shtick, though, is a more serious issue — the complications inherent in the difficult business of becoming ourselves. A great graduation gift."
"Review" by , "Funny, entertaining, and ultimately endearing."
"Review" by , "A charming first novel....Wicked fun."
"Review" by , "A seriously adult teen novel....Wildly camp and achingly funny."
"Review" by , "Difficult to put down....Very funny."
"Synopsis" by , Set in 1983, this is a deliciously funny romp of a novel about one overly theatrical and sexually confused New Jersey teenager's larcenous quest for his acting school tuition.
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