Columnist and first-time novelist Marc Acito has been called the "gay Dave Barry." But don't expect to find riffs on bad traffic, pirate-speak, and all-writer rock bands in Acito's debut, How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater.
As stated in the title, this book finds humor and adventure mainly in those topics that would most appeal to a stereotypically gay audience: musicals, piano bars, and sex, sex, sex.
Did I mention the sex? By the end of the book, the teenage characters are so liberated that they'd probably find an evening at Studio 54 slightly mundane. All kinds of interesting scenarios arise when Ed Zanni, a bisexual high-school drama club star from suburban New Jersey, is denied tuition to Julliard by his well-to-do father and wicked step mother. Fortunately his close friends, Paula (ample of body, unlucky in love), Kelly (Ed's cheerleader girlfriend), Doug (his football player love interest), Natie (a nerd with a gift for white-collar crime) and Ziba, (a regal, Middle Eastern beauty), are very willing to engage in fraud, forgery, and blackmail to help him pay for drama school. Ah, high school.
Despite the naughty bits, How I Paid for College is actually rather sweet. Set in high school as it is, Acito's book is somewhat reminiscent of young adult fiction. Yes, there's a lot more homoerotica than the Sweet Valley High series could have prepared readers for, but still it reminds one of those early days--full of tragedy and disappointment--and yet safely nestled in a time of life before real tragedy and disappointment usually set in. It's easy to forget this is a book for adults... until the three-ways commence. And a fast-moving, light-hearted story with three-ways? Well, entertainment-wise, readers could do a lot worse. --Leah Weathersby
From Publishers Weekly
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.
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