How to Win at High School by Owen Matthews

How to Win at High School by Owen Matthews

Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rated: YA 14+
Format: eGalley
Source: Edelweiss
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
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Using Scarface as his guide to life, Adam Higgs is going from zero to high school hero.

Adam Higgs is a loser, and he’s not okay with it. 

But starting as a junior in a new high school seems like exactly the right time to change things. He brainstorms with his best friend, Brian: What will it take for him to take over Nixon Collegiate? 

Adam searches for the A-listers’ weak spot and strikes gold when he gets queen bee Sara Bryant to pay him for doing her physics homework. One part nerd, two parts badass, Adam ditches his legit job and turns to full-time cheating. His clients? All the Nixon Collegiate gods and goddesses.

But soon his homework business becomes a booze business, which becomes a fake ID business. Adam’s popularity soars as he unlocks high school achievements left and right, from his first kiss to his first rebound hookup. But something else is haunting him—a dark memory from his past, driving him to keep climbing. What is it? And will he go too far?

Looking at the cover and title, I first had How to Win at High School pegged as a light-hearted story about someone trying to climb the high school social ladder. Boy was I wrong. Social climbing? Yes. Light-hearted? Nope. I haven't actually seen Scarface–the book kind of explains the plot, which was helpful, because all I had to go on beforehand was "say hello to my little friend"–and referencing the movie sets this story up to have foreboding undertones. Owen Matthews's novel is a gripping tribute to the quest for popularity, one that's full of harsh realities and dark turns. 

First of all, I loved the format. I was more than a little surprised when I saw that there were more than 300 chapters, but upon reading it I found that most chapters were only one or two pages, some even just a sentence or a few sentences long. It definitely made for a quick read! And then there's the pretty unique writing style. It kind of reminded me of books written in free verse, with the purposeful line-spacing and use of parenthesis. It also flowed like a stream of consciousness narrative, which I thought was quite cool, because despite how fast I was able to read this book, I was still able to gage the depth of the situation and understand our main character.

I hated Adam, but I don't think that's much of a surprise. I suppose we are meant to hate him, as he starts to become absolved and obsessed with reaching to the top. Also, I can't believe a high school could be like this! Surely, someone would catch on. It seems unlikely that it could get this far without someone taking notice. Besides my suspension of disbelief, this whole world seemed too far from the reality of high school, which in a way kept me reading because I wanted to know how it would all go down.

A much darker take on the usual climb for popularity story, How to Win at High School was a gritty tribute to Scarface skilfully adapted for a young adult audience. With a unique writing style and convoluted characters you don't know whether to hate or support, I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from Owen Matthews.

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1 comment:

  1. Haven't seen Scarface either. Glad you enjoyed this.
    Thanks for stopping by my old site - if you have time, check out my new one!
    Jen Ryland


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