Book: How I Paid for College by Marc Acito

Funny novel about a bisexual high-school student from New Jersey who wants to study at Julliard

Marc Acito
How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship, and Musical Theater
Broadway Books, 2004
ISBN: 0-7679-1841-X
277 pages

In How I Paid for College, Edward Zanni is a bisexual high-school student who lives in the pretty tony New York suburb of Wallingford, New Jersey. Edward is the star of the school musicals and he's determined to go on to study acting at Julliard. Edward's father, Al, is the chief financial officer of a toxic-waste treatment company and, not surprisingly, thinks that Edward should go to college to study business. A premise like that could result in a book that wasn't much fun to read. But happily How I Paid for College is very funny and very good.

As the book begins, it's 1983 and it's the beginning of the summer before Edward's final year of high-school. Right away, we meet Edward's friend Paula and she quickly persuades him to help her with an over-complicated plan to get her a date (well, more like sex) with a popular football player. And that's an apt beginning: the book is largely about Edward, his friends, sex, and elaborate plans that are apt to go awry. There's a lot of comic potential in that and Mr Acito exploits it well. But there's more to the book than that: Mr Acito makes Edward's relationships with his friends charming and even sometimes touching. Mr Acito manages a mix of funny and touching that turns out to be very good.

I suspect (and Mr Actito's website seems to confirm) that some elements of the book are autobiographical. One reason that I suspected that is that some of the scenes in the book are remarkably persuasive. Reading them, it's hard to imagine that the author wasn't there. Some other scenes aren't so persuasive. But that unevenness didn't bother me, especially since no one could wish that Mr Acito had gone though everything that Edward does.

Posted: Wed - January 12, 2005 at 08:52   Main   Category: