How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

I felt my database was a little heavy on the supernatural and fantastical and wanted to broaden its scope. While searching YALSA awards lists for realistic GLBTQ fiction I came across How I Paid for College on the Teens Top Ten list from 2005 (retrieved August 1st, 2009 from

Author: Marc Acito
ISBN-10: 0767918541 ISBN-13: 9780767918541
City and Publisher: New York: Broadway
Copyright Date: 2004
Author’s Website:

Reader’s Annotation: Edward Zanni, the seventeen year old bisexual star of the drama club, has no doubt he will attend Julliard next year and become a classically trained actor. In the meantime, he is determined to have a summer full of mischief and mystery with his best friend Paula, his girlfriend Kelly, hot jock Doug, nerdy Natie, and elegant Ziba.

Plot Summary: Edward Zanni and his best friend Paula are determined to have a summer full of mischief and mystery. And in between play rehearsals they certainly do, dragging along Edward’s girlfriend Kelly, hot jock Doug, nerdy Natie, and elegant Ziba. Of course the mischief extends into the school year, as Edward deals with his father’s refusal to pay for Julliard and explores his bisexuality. Sometimes their adventures have serious consequences and sometimes they don’t.

Critical Evaluation: How I Paid for College is a rollicking romp punctuated with eccentricity and art. Acito’s characters grow on the reader like a charming fungus, and by the end of the book one is deeply invested in rooting for their success. Edward is the East Coast bisexual theater version of C.D. Payne’s Nick Twisp. Perhaps the best thing about Acito’s writing is the way he manages to portray the characters’ anguishes – unrequited love, fading dreams, and disappointment, while maintaining a mood of fun and irreverence.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 16 and up
Curriculum Ties: How I Paid for College would be an interesting addition to classes exploring sexuality. It is also a great just for fun book.
Booktalking Ideas: Tell teens that the title says it all.

Genre: Humor
Influences from Other Genres: Realistic fiction, GBLTQ fiction

Challenge Issues:
As it says in the title, this book is full of sex, theft, friendship, and musical theater. Acito’s high school age characters are having sex, thinking about sex, and talking about sex. Acito’s sex scenes are not shrouded in mystery; the story is told from Edward’s point of view in his frank language. The characters also get involved in theft, blackmail, petty vandalism, and underage drinking. All their mischief is generally without malice however. The characters support each other with love and friendship. While their actions may not make parents totally comfortable, they are still quite true to life. Real teenagers do all of these things, and talk about them the way that Edward does.

About the Author: Marc Acito began his career by writing a syndicated column which earned him a reputation as “the gay Dave Berry.” He lives in Portland, Oregon with his partner, Floyd. (More details at


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