BOOK REVIEWS

How To Steal A Car Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-08-26 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 48 user ratings
ISBN:0545112877
LANGUAGE:English

"This was a very quick read. I finished it one sitting. It's about an average high school student named Kelleigh who develops a taste for car theft the summer before her senior year. It starts out fairly innocently: "borrowing" a stranger's car for a joyride after she finds his keys, and then slowly escalates from there. She "borrows" her parents car, then her neighbor's, and so on and so on. Kelleigh, who doesn't even have a license, is fully aware that what she's doing is stupid and dangerous, and that if she gets caught there will be hell to pay. Every time she does it, she resolves never to do it again.

What I thought was so great about this really simple book is that it shows you so clearly how somebody normal and intelligent can wind up doing something so outrageous. The answer is: in tiny increments. The first time is just a fluke, but then, having done it once, it's as if a new world as opened up and Kelleigh starts seeing the opportunity to do it again everywhere. Why does she continue? It's partly because she's bored, her parents are having problems, her best friend is annoying her. I get the feeling that these are the justifications she's using in her mind. "I have these problems, therefore I have the right to do something bad." But I think she mostly keeps doing it because now she lives in a world where she can. She's created a reality in which she's a car thief, and now that she sees the possibility everywhere, it's too hard to resist.
" said.

"Kelleigh Monahan doesn't drink, do drugs, talk back, or do any of the other things girls usually do to act out. In fact, if it weren't for a series of bizarre coincidences, Kelleigh wouldn't even have become a car thief in How to Steal a Car (2009) by Pete Hautman.

The first car, the Nissan, was barely even stolen. And after that, well, steal one car and suddenly everyone expects you to be a regular car thief or something.

That isn't to say that this book is an action packed heist book. It's not. Despite its title, How to Steal a Car is more about the ennui and general frustration so often associated with suburban life--especially for teens.

Kelleigh is surrounded by people lulled into complacency by their quiet, suburban town while she, much like Moby Dick's Ishmael as quoted in the beginning of the story, wants nothing more than to run away. Or, as luck would have it, to drive away in someone else's car.

How to Steal a Car is an interesting, super fast read. Unfortunately that does not make it particularly compelling. While Kelleigh's ennui was palpable, she remained painfully one dimensional as a character. Hautman's portrayal of the rest of the characters in the novel were similarly lacking in depth. The story was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end, but the Kelleigh at the end of the story was basically the same Kelleigh we met at the beginning: a girl frustrated with her life and unsure what to do to fix it.

Possible Pairings: The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, Rx by Tracy Lynn, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Gone in Sixty Seconds (movie).
" said.

"Reviewed by Lynn Crow for TeensReadToo.com

Kelleigh never meant to become a car thief. She just happened to see a guy drop his keys without noticing one day at the mall, and thought it'd be a thrill to grab them.

With a best friend who's always telling her how boring she is, a defense attorney dad who cares more about getting a serial rapist off the hook than what's going on in his daughter's life, and a "boyfriend" who never makes a move on her, maybe it's not a surprise that Kell decides to take that thrill a little further.

But once she's started, Kell finds that the rush of car-stealing is hard to give up. She starts out small, taking her dad's car for a spin in the middle of the night, sneaking into her neighbor's house with an emergency spare key to borrow their ride. But as her parents seem to grow even more distant - from her and from each other - and her friends stay oblivious to the changes taking place inside her, she pushes the risk further and further. And there's no way of knowing how this chase scene will end.

Kell has a distinctive, engaging voice that will pull the reader into the story from the start. Though her behavior may seem bizarre, her reasons are clear enough to be believable and sympathetic. Her sense of humor will bring laughs even as readers cringe at the situations she gets herself into. Her growing disillusionment with her parents and friends is poignant and realistic.

This is a relatively short read, and difficult to put down as you wonder how much trouble Kell will get herself into, and how she'll get out of it. The conclusion is open-ended, which may frustrate some readers, but it feels fitting to her story. A great contemporary read for anyone who loves quirky narrators!
" said.

"Some people steal a car for the money. Some people steal a car for revenge. Some people steal a car just because. Kelleigh is a person in the last category. It all starts when a man drops his keys in the parking lot and Kelleigh picks them up and decides that instead of returning them, she will keep them. Then she accidentally finds out where he lives, and therefore where he keeps his car, and ends up taking it for a little joy ride. All this before she even has her license. After this incident her friends and some other folks think of her as a car thief and things get a little out of hand. All in all though, Kelleigh has fun with what she's doing, in spite of the consequences that will soon await her.

This was a super fast read, but it was nicely entertaining. I love that Kelleigh and her best friend Jen share a boyfriend, a guy named will, and he doesn't actually seem that interested in either of them. Any other guy would take full advantage of this sort of situation, but Will seems oblivious. If you ever thought about stealing a car this book is for you, though maybe that's bad advice and you should not read this book and fuel your desire. It's been awhile since I read Moby Dick, but I don't feel it shares many themes with this story at all. I mean it was a nice touch that she was struggling to get through it, and that showed her in a normal teenage light. It helped offset the fact that she was a criminal. Kelleigh doing her summer reading assignment makes you think that the whole car stealing must be a misunderstanding. This was a fun fast read and I definitely think you should pick it up. Though I love Pete Hautman, so I may just be biased ;)

First Line:
"The way this whole thing got started was completely coincidental and not like I planned it or anything."

Favorite Lines:
"I stole the Cadillac out of necessity. It was Jen's fault."
" said.

"Pete Hautman is a young adult author from Minnesota. I like to give an extra plug to local Minnesota authors when I do booktalks. I am ashamed to say that I had never read one of his books until now - too many books, too little time. What prompted me was that a local high school did a community read of sorts where they asked interested students and community members to read any of Hautman's books and then attend a free to the public discussion of this work. Since "How to Steal a Car" is his latest book and has gotten good reviews, I decided to start with this one!

The main character, Kelleigh Monahan, seems "perfect" at first. She is an only child whose parents seem "perfect." She also seems to have "perfect" friends. However, the imperfections of all of the characters and their lives is slowly revealed to us. While at the mall, Kelliegh sees a man drop his car keys as he is getting out of his car. On a whim, she picks them up, and she and her best friend take it for a spin. This adrenalin rush leads to another car theft, and another, and another. The thrill of stealing a car becomes addictive, a way to fill the voids in her life, as well as a way to get back at her parents.

I loved all of the local color found in "How to Steal a Car." I loved the unique subject matter - auto theft, by a girl no less! I loved the compelling, interesting characters. I loved the fact that "How to Steal a Car" is a highly readable, slim, and fast. I loved the thematic content - though I don't think that the lessons here sit on the surface of the story. Kids will really have to think about what "drives" the main character, Kelliegh, to steal cars. They also may not get the whole "Moby Dick" thing, which Kelleigh is reading throughout the story. Finally, they will really have to think about how Kelliegh's father's defense of an accused rapist is parallel to her own actions. The fact that the plot goes forward and backward in time may also be difficult for some.

All in all, Hautman's "How to Steal a Car" will sell well with teens. Recommended.

" said.

"How to Steal a Car was an exciting read that left me breathless. It was exciting to read from Kelleigh’s point of view and the rush she got from stealing cars was contagious. When I first started reading I was wondering what was going to happen, and if I was even going to enjoy a novel about stealing cars, well I really did enjoy it. It was one of those books that I had to keep reading it find out what was going to happen. I liked that Kelleigh was just a normal girl, not a gang member or whatever that you would assume would steal cars. Surprisingly, I learned a lot about stealing cars- it’s easier than it looks (if you have the keys). While the setup of the book was great, I really liked the “how to guide” part of the story, sometimes it seemed like there was no end since there weren’t chapters, it just kept going from page one to page 170 (in my ARC). Although I didn’t care for some of the characters, I really liked Kelleigh and I even liked Deke, the guy that roped Kelleigh into stealing cars for money. Some of the characters weren't my favorite, and I think a lot of the characters weren't needed in the book, but all in all it was an exciting book, that will keep you reading until the end.

I think the main character being a girl added a whole new dimension onto the book. I could almost connect with Kelleigh, not with what she was doing, but at points I felt like I knew her. Some parts of the novel were a little confusing, as it kept switching to different scenes and flashing back randomly. It was fairly easy to catch on quickly, but some people might not like it. Hautman’s writing style was great, and Kelleigh’s story was really believable. Her stealing cars was even believable, since it wasn’t taken to extremes. I also really like the cover- it’s cute and exciting at the same time. The toy cars stand out against the blue background and I just overall really like it.

In the end, I would say both boys and girls would enjoy How to Steal a Car, it’s exciting, refreshing, and a great book for teens. It’s a great look at how good contemporary fiction can be. It’s a fast read, too- under 200 pages, so I would definitely recommend you pick up a copy.

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
" said.

"Kelleigh Monahan is not a car thief. So maybe she took some guy’s car for a joyride after picking up the keys he dropped. So what if she took her dad’s Lexus for a drive in the middle of the night without his permission. Just a couple of instances don’t add up to “car thief;” she did return those cars after all. But eventually, Kelleigh finds herself being enticed into stealing more cars, by the excitement, by all the other drama going on in her life, even once by necessity. And these times, Kelleigh doesn’t return the cars. Is this just an example of teens acting out? Maybe. But more importantly, is this who Kelleigh really is, or wants to be?

I’m not sure why I picked up this book; it’s probably the title that got me. I mean, I really don’t read that many—or any—books on car theft, so I thought How to Steal a Car would be interesting. My final verdict: though mildly amusing and exciting at times, the story seemed just pointless. I really don’t buy into one of postmodernism’s many tenets that the process is more important than the product; the process really does me no good is it ends up with an item I don’t particularly care about or completely understand. That’s how I mostly felt about Kelleigh’s story. I get why she starts stealing cars; she seeks an adrenaline thrill she can’t get from her own boring life in which her best friend tells her she dresses like a nun and her mom fixates on perfecting niceness. I even understand why she stops stealing cars without returning them; it’s just not who she is. But really, what does that all add up to? All it really states is “I’m bored and I don’t like the way my life is right now, so I think I’ll steal a car—oh wait, stealing is wrong.” There were times I could sympathize with Kelleigh, for example, with her dad’s utter lack of morals and her best friend’s obsession with superficial things, but as hard as I tried, and I really did, I just couldn’t find any deeper meaning to this story. Perhaps other readers will.

Although How to Steal a Car was meaningless to me, I don’t think the novel was either good or bad, and other readers may be able to pick up something from the story I wasn’t able to find. I really have no idea who would enjoy this book most, and since I’m not issuing a recommendation, you’ll just have to figure out for yourself if How to Steal a Car is worth reading.

reposted from http://thebookmuncher.blogspot.com
" said.

"I read this book as assignment for my graduate level Teaching of Writing class. I'm not sure of the teacher's motives for assigning said book (we're discussing it tonight), but if I were a teacher, I would NOT come near "How to Steal a Car." Here's why:

1)the heroine, Kelleigh, is not very likable. Yes, she's fifteen, and therefore immature to a degree, but she was so ridiculous that I wanted to smack her. She seems to have no real concept of right and wrong; this is best seen in the fact that she keeps stealing/borrowing cars, even though she knows such is highly illegal. The justification the book gives is that Kelleigh wants a high to escape her troubled home life, but at the same time, it's not a good message to present to students, whether in a humorous or serious fashion. Not once does Kelleigh ever feel remorse for her car thievery; at one point, when she comes in contact with the owner of the car she is stealing, her line of thought is "What I felt then was not the horror of having caused injury to another human being but anger and frustration that he had gotten in my way, that he had tried to interfere." What kind of message is that?!

Also, Kelleigh also takes pride in the fact that she is, to quote the book, "a total bitch." Definitely not a good message for your students. Additionally (and I'm a little biased here since I'm an English major), Kelleigh is supposed to be reading "Moby Dick" for as a school assignment and constantly makes fun of the classic throughout the book. While I understand this to an extent, since most teenagers don't like reading school-assigned books, again this is not good to present to your students, the idea that 'classic literature is funny/boring.' It's difficult enough to get them to read classical books, so why would you want one that helps trash such?

2)the supporting characters pop in and out to the point where it's hard to like or relate to them. If a writing assignment was planned where the students would have to pick a character from the book to write about, it would be difficult because everyone else in Kelleigh's world is barely fleshed out. The closest example we get is her best friend, Jen, and even then we don't know really all that much about her beyond Kalleigh's silly opinions and descriptions.

3)the actions and lack of thought. Besides the constant car stealing/borrowing, at one point Jen and Kelleigh drink a bottle of wine that Jen steals from her parents' cellar. Granted, they don't see anything wrong with this since they grow up in alcoholic households (Kelleigh's mom is a real boozer), but again, would a teacher really be okay with promoting an underage character who drinks, even just once?

Overall, "How to a Steal a Car" is an inappropriate book to use for teaching purposes. None of the characters are ever held accountable for their actions; at the very end, just when Kelleigh is given a chance to redeem herself and has decided to stop getting her 'high,' she goes right back to stealing cars. The only way I could see this book being used in a classroom is if students had to do a "what-if" assignment about doing the right thing.
" said.

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