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How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater Paperback – August 2, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Edward Zanni Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (August 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767918541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767918541
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,179,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on December 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
How I Paid For College is a funny and sweet coming of age novel--with lots of sex, for a change. Ed, the narrator-protagonist, is about to enter his senior year in high school and his main goal in life is to go to Julliard, but his business-oriented dad decides that Julliard won't get him anywhere in life, so he won't pay for it. Ed and his amusing friends set off on a quest to come up with the cash to pay for college. It's 1984, so college isn't quite the expensive proposition we now know it to be, but Ed still has got to come up with quite a chunk of change. The novel isn't really about with getting money for college, it is really about getting the courage to see who you truly are. Ed realizes his own sexuality, as do most of his friends. They also become comfortable in their roles in high school (as "Play People") and by the end of the novel are pretty well-adjusted 18-year olds. This is a charming novel for many reasons. Ed is a lovable narrator and his sarcastic, cynical and hilarious look at the New Jersey suburbs in the early 80s is priceless and hilarious. This novel will make you laugh out loud and will always keep you smiling. Enjoy.
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HOW I PAID FOR COLLEGE, A Novel of SEX, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater by Marc Acito is simply put, brilliant. I found the book on Phillip Margolin's website as a book he enjoyed and since I enjoy his books, well, here it is. This book doesn't need a summary here, it just needs to be said, rush, a get yourself a copy and read it. It is a coming of age story, a story about the arts and those in it, its is very very believable, the characters are wondrous...you know some of these folks in you life, and heart felt, and even sexy. Oh, did I say laugh out loud funny!! So HIGHLY RECOMMENDED .
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This is one of the funniest books I've ever read. I can't even count how many times I laughed out loud. This novel is not for the prudish or for young children. Everyone else who likes to laugh: Read it immediately.

It features a fast-paced plot and wonderfully interesting characters. The main character is a bisexual high school senior who loves to act and hates to work. His friends are a drama geek/football player, a guy who loves to break the law, and a beautiful, sweet girl who loves sex. And then there is the evil stepmonster, the handicapped gay drama teacher, Frank Sinatra's minions, and a bunch of other fun folks who make this book a lively, laugh-out-loud success.
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It is unfortunate that this book was allowed to be sold to the public without warnings.

The first should concern shockable homophobics with heart disorders. They could be suckered into reading this by the way it starts out as an interesting coming of age romance - "Catcher in the Rye" (to which deliberate reference in made) set in suburban New Jersey in the 1980's with a few innocuous ethnic jibes ("I felt at home there. Jews are like Italians only smarter") and social satiric jabs ("You can tell that sophisticated people live here because all their photographs are black and white."). Then they may need advanced cardiac life support soon after page 99 (where the sex is more or less hetero). A wise precaution might be to test them out with small doses of Augusten Burroughs and Sedaris.

A second warning is for insomniacs like me who read themselves to sleep rather than take Ambien. I finished it at three this morning. Luckily it's Sunday.

The third caveat is about reading it in any place where you might look odd laughing aloud. There's a high laugh aloud risk factor. Maybe the PATH from Christopher Street to Hoboken would be safe because everybody else will be reading it.
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My high school students were given this as an option for Book Group, and LOVED it. It's won a number of awards for literature, and is an outstanding coming of age story (and very funny and relatable).
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What a joyful and hilarious romp this book is! Reading it is like watching a zany, screwball comedy- there were some bits that had me laughing so hard I had to take a moment and just revel in the wackiness. I mean, try to keep a straight face when the hero's evil Teutonic stepmonster confronts him on his girlfriend's front porch with charges of stealing. Or while the Creative Vandalism team is wreaking havoc on the neighborhood.

The most gratifying quality of `How I Paid for College' isn't, however, the book's comedy but its great sense of the general goodness of mankind. Marc Acito loves and respects his characters very much, even when they are in trouble, and the reader finishes the book with the sense of high good humor usually reserved for the best kind of `feel good' movie. In fact, in order to accurately describe the book to friends, and you will find yourself talking about it with your friends, it's easiest to rely on theatrical or cinematic vocabulary. Part of the reason is the racing, hilarious quality of the story, but mostly it's because the story has a `here and now' quality to them. For example, the scene (see?) of the school's opening night of Godspell perfectly conveys the quiet, awesome roar you feel yourself part of when something really extraordinary is happening on stage or on the screen. Being able to make the reader a part of that is a gift. How I Paid For College is a superb coming-of-age story and it would make a great movie, but it's perfectly fine to read it for the belly laughs, too. In fact, I hope you do buy this madcap book. You're going to love it, and you're going to be glad you did.
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