ARC Review: How To Win At High School by Owen Matthews

How To Win At High SchoolTitle: How To Win At High School
Author: Owen Matthews
Published: March 3rd, 2015 (HarperTeen)
Pages: 528
Genres/Themes: Young Adult, High School, Peer Pressure
Format:  E-ARC
Source: Via Edelweiss and HarperTeen
Rating: Four Stars
Goodreads Summary:
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?
How to Win at High School’s honest portrayal of high school hierarchy is paired with an adrenaline-charged narrative and an over-the-top story line, creating a book that will appeal to guys, girls, and reluctant readers of every stripe. Adam’s rocket ride to the top of the social order and subsequent flameout is both emotionally resonant and laugh-out-loud funny.
Purchase: Barnes and Noble / Amazon / Book Depository
Cover Thoughts: I like the black and white and i like the tile, I’m not crazy about the picture, but it gets the point across.
First Line: Adam Higgs is a loser
~First Thoughts~
I love the writing style.
Ah, How To Win At High School, has been described as  Scarface meets Ferris Bueller seemed more like Risky Business meets Fast Time At Ridgemont High to me. This book called to me, give me a book with teenagers doing under the table type work and I will eat it up (IE. Get Even or Liars INC.). 
It definitely encompasses some 80s movie tropes such as stereotypes for one.  Adam is a loser, we realize this from the very first page. And then for about fifty pages after that because it’s constantly reiterated. This constant reiteration got just a bit tiring, but it drove the point home. Mostly.  If that didn’t, the gods and goddesses of the school certainly showed Adam was a lower. As you can imagine, the gods and goddesses run the school, they are the popular group, the group Adam wants to get into.  As a loser, Adam works at Pizza Hut and hangs out with his brother Sam who’s disabled. If Sam never gotten hurt, Adam would have become a god when he went to high school. He thinks Sam is unhappy. Therefore he attempts to become a god and have something to tell Sam to make him happy.
I think if you try to take this book seriously, it will disappoint you. How To Win At High School is not this generation’s The Breakfast Club, there’s no big revelation of sorts. Although there is a realization. No one ultimately grows closer to someone they pushed aside before. Some characters come across one dimensional, particularly in the popular clique. Adam was very whiny at times, which would normally be a turn off….and it was. Fortunately, he stops halfway through. In the beginning, I thought it was crazy and a little annoying how obsessed Adam was with how he was a loser or why he cared so much. Then I remembered this is high school and people sometimes care about how they’re portrayed in high school.
Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed How To Win At High School. It was an engaging read, pretty fast paced after the beginning and heading toward the climax.


Adam definitely gets into some “risky business” when he begins to do his lab partner’s assignments in exchange for cash. Soon word gets out and Adam decides to use this for his advantage. Oh, cheating… I don’t condone cheating at all, but at the same time….I loved this. I really did. It helped get his name out there and boosted his credibility. 


Soon Adam begins getting so many assignments though that he’s unable to keep up with the demand. Then he enlists three other students, smart ones. Even this isn’t enough though, he has to get higher, be greater, become a god. He jumps to the next logical step: alcohol and finally fake ids. Adam was unwilling to stop at anything from becoming a god. This was such an interesting aspect and finding out why he craved it so much.
I loved how driven Adam was to “win”. I loved how he got sucked in more and more to lose his loser title and be well liked.  His need to be accepted by the gods and goddesses of his high school was believable, even if I couldn’t ever picture myself doing something like that. Money does crazy things to people. I loved seeing the downward spiral that Adam went through. It was interesting seeing him go from doing kids’ homework to getting alcohol to fake IDs and ultimately drugs. It was insane how much effect trying to be popular was. I thought the downward spiral with him feeling stressed and losing control was nicely done. I liked seeing how the popular scene worked because in my high school (and every other school I’ve gone to) there wasn’t really a popular scene there. It was interesting seeing the “rules”.


In the midst of this, he gets a girlfriend, Victoria, who happens to be his little sister’s friend. I can’t say fully what I thought of Victoria, I liked her, but I never really got to knew her. I did like it when she stood up to Adam though a couple times. Of course, as Adam loses his popular title, he begins changing his attitude as well. He becomes soley focused on money and becoming a god. This leads to problems between him and Victoria, problems between him and Sam and problems at school, with his grades. I definitely felt bad for Sam and Victoria because they didn’t fully know what was going on with Adam. He was definitely out of line a few times to them.
How To Win At High School wasn’t always an enjoyable read though. I had a hard time in the beginning because it was slow paced with Adam mostly whining. It did pick up though and I found once he started selling assignments, I started becoming more invested in the story. I can’t say I ever had a real connection with Adam or any of the other characters. With the exception of Sam, Adam’s older brother and Victoria, Adam’s girlfriend, I didn’t particularly like anyone.  I felt like I didn’t really get to know Adam either. We see him before he’s popular as a “loser” and we see him when he’s “popular” but neither of the portrayals really seemed true to me. There wasn’t much humor in it or heart for that matter. I feel if there had been some one-liners in there, I would have liked it more. That’s a minor nitpick though.
~Writing Style~
The writing style was really unique, I thought. I liked how for the first ten or so chapters, Adam’s story was told as if there were a narrator for it. I know that doesn’t make much sense as it was told in third person. It almost felt like a certain (unknown) person was looking back at Adam’s life and telling the story. This definitely grabbed my interest until the end. The pages were done really interestingly, while there’s a high page and chapter count. all of the pages weren’t full of words. Occasionally pages wouldn’t have more than a few words, a sentence or a paragraph. The chapters were on the short side themselves which made it fast to read. 
~Final Thoughts~
Overall, I loved How To Win At High School’s plot.  I thought it was interesting how it kept escalating. I loved the writing style and the short chapters. I wish Adam’s relationships hd been more fleshed out and there were more adult interactions than there were. I would recommend How To Win At High School because it’s definitely a different sort of book.


~Do I Recommend?~
~Recommended For~
Fans of high school settings
Fans of under the table work
Fans of teenagers becoming popular
~Will I Re-Read It?~
I received an E-ARC via Edelweiss and HarperTeen, this in no way influences my review.

About Amber (YA Indulgences)

Amber is a 20-something woman who enjoys reading, writing, listening to music and taking walks. She has a book blog called YA Indulgences . She is still trying to figure out what she's doing with her life, but she's confident that time will tell. In the meantime she's heading towards the goal of becoming a renowned blogger. View all posts by Amber (YA Indulgences)

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