"The story of how I paid for college begins like life itself — in a pool of water. Not in the primordial ooze from which prehistoric fish first developed arms and crawled into the shore but in a heavily chlorinated pool of water in the backyard of Gloria D'Angelo's split-level ranch in Campton, New Jersey."
—Edward Zanni, our narrator, first page
It's 1983, Wallingford, New Jersey, a sleep bedroom community. Edward Zanni, an seventeen year old aspiring actor, is ready to go to the school of his dreams, Juilliard, after a summer of mischief and creative vandalism. However, after his father, Al, remarries
and refuses to pay for his tuition, Edward turns to his lovable group of misfit musical theater friends
as they engage in blackmail, forgery, embezzlement and various illegal tactics to raise money for him to pay for college.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is How I Paid For College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater
by Marc Acito. There is also a sequel, Attack of the Theater People.
This work provides examples of:
- Actually Pretty Funny: Some (read: most) of the things Edward and his friends do take so much Refuge in Audacity they have permanent residency there, but it's actually still pretty funny.
- Attempted Rape
- Bi the Way: Edward, as well as Kelly.
- Biggus Dickus: Doug has some — very impressive equipment.
- Camp Gay: Hung
- Cast Full of Gay
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Willow
- Did Not Get the Girl: Edward and Kelly break up, he doesn't end up with Doug, and apart from a fling with Hung, he ends the sequel alone.
- Everyone Can See It: Edward and Doug, ironically enough.
- Evil Genius: Natie
- Five-Man Band: Roles are subject to change, though. A lot.
- Fun with Acronyms: CV Enterprises
- Incompatible Orientation: Edward really likes Doug, who unfortunately is straight. Despite this, they still have a lot of Unresolved Sexual Tension.
- Also Doug with Ziba, who is a lesbian.
- Interrupted Intimacy: Nine out of ten times, this is the reason Doug and Edward don't get anywhere.
- Jewish and Nerdy: Natie
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The list of main characters stays at a fairly reasonable ten or so, but including all the minor named characters that pop up from time to time, this qualifies.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Edward spends a good third of the book unable to have sex with his girlfriend because of this, and ultimately it causes them to break up when she catches on.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Edward does a lot of terrible things if you think about it, but it's okay since he's the hero. He does tend to genuinely feel bad about most of his actions, though this doesn't stop him from doing them.
- No Guy Wants to Be Chased: The combination of this and Hung's flamboyant personality initially turn Edward way off.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
- Refuge in Audacity
- Running Gag: A couple, including the Universally Recognized Sign for X, dressing up as nuns and priests, and people Tempting Fate
- Sorry to Interrupt: Edward once accidentally walks in on Kelly and Ziba.
- Statuesque Stunner: Ziba is around six feet tall and towers over everyone except Doug.
- Tempting Fate: People have a tendency of going 'what could possibly go wrong?' right before they do something risky. How Genre Blind are they!?
- Their First Time: Edward and Kelly, after they've broken up and she's with Ziba.
- Three-Way Sex: At different points in the novel, Edward gets into two different threesomes: one with Doug and Kelly (that gets interrupted by her mother), and one with Kelly and Ziba.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Not romantically, but Ziba and Natie become very close friends and co-conspirators.
- True Companions: CV Enterprises.
- Unusual Euphemism: Unusual yet hilarious example: Edward refers to Doug's junk as 'love lollipop' once
- Wicked Stepmother: Dagmar
- Will They or Won't They?: Edward and Doug, despite the fact that the latter is straight. This carries on pretty much to the end of the sequel. They don't get together.
- Your Cheating Heart: After they've broken up and Kelly has moved on to Ziba, she and Edward briefly engage in this when he's finally able to get it up.