Synopses & Reviews
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.
It's 1983 in Wallingford, New Jersey, a sleepy bedroom community outside of Manhattan. Seventeen-year-old Edward Zanni, a feckless Ferris Bueller-type, is Peter Panning his way through a carefree summer of magic and mischief. The fun comes to a halt, however, when Edward's father remarries and refuses to pay for Edward to study acting at Juilliard.
Edward's truly in a bind. He's ineligible for scholarships because his father earns too much. He's unable to contact his mother because she's somewhere in Peru trying to commune with Incan spirits. And, as a sure sign he's destined for a life in the arts, Edward's incapable of holding down a job. So he turns to his loyal (but immoral) misfit friends to help him steal the tuition money from his father, all the while practicing for his high school performance of Grease. Disguising themselves as nuns and priests, they merrily scheme their way through embezzlement, money laundering, identity theft, forgery, and blackmail. But, along the way, Edward also learns the value of friendship, hard work, and how you're not really a man until you can beat up your father metaphorically, that is.
How I Paid for College is a farcical coming-of-age story that's kind of like what would ensue if David Sedaris rewrote The Catcher in the Rye. It is a novel for anyone who has ever had a dream or a scheme, and it marks the introduction to an original and audacious talent.
"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.)
"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." Kirkus Reviews
"This is happily trashy, goofy stuff with its inspired plot, despite a load of predictably sketched characters....Set this one aside for your next day of playing hooky and lying on the couch all day reading." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"If John Hughes had directed a movie of bisexual self-discovery (Ferris Bueller Comes Out?), it might have looked something like Acito's endearingly goofy debut....[G]ood-natured wit [and] gleefully unembarrassed 1980s nostalgia..." Booklist
"[A] funny, moving, and dead-on novel....This insightfulness ensures that College will become one of those rare books that YAs insist that all of their friends read, that is carried around in backpacks just to have it be close at all times." School Library Journal
"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." Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She's Not There
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.
About the Author
Hailed as the "gay Dave Barry," Marc Acito is a syndicated humorist, whose column, "The Gospel According to Marc," appears in nineteen newspapers, including the Chicago Free Press and Outword-Los Angeles. After being kicked out of one of the finest drama schools in the country, he went on to sing roles with major opera companies, including Seattle Opera. He lives in Portland, Oregon.