Pete Hautman Explores Distructive Behavior In How To Steal A Car

Some teenage girls cut themselves, some have eating disorders, and some shoplift to get a rush.  Kelleigh steals cars.  Her home life is not so hot.  Her dad is a high powered attorney defending a known rapist and it is likely he is having an affair.  She often has to act as designated driver to her mom’s liquid book clubs.  Pete Hautman is great at exploring different topics and how they relate to teens.  How To Steal A Car looks at the distructive behavior of one teenage girl who is desperately seeking some kind of control over her own life.  He describes the rush Kelleigh feels in the quiet moments before she starts the car she is about to steal.  She and her friend Jen have a relationship with a boy they call their joint boyfriend, Will.  Their three-way friendship is an interesting one.  Besides the car stealing, Kelleigh finds she is strangely attracted to a more daring thief.  The book’s ending leaves you wondering and is a great conversation tool to engage teens.  What will happen next?

Some Ideas For Discussing With Teens: 

Talk about the rush she gets from stealing cars.  What would drive someone to do this or any other kind of destructive behavior?

She does it once.  What makes her keep doing it and taking bigger risks?

Kelleigh is disgusted with her father for defending a rapist.  Talk about how teens can be disappointed in their parents. 

Talk about Kelleigh and Jen’s relationship with Will.  How do these kinds of plutonic relationships work?

What attracts Kelleigh to the car thief?  Why does she keep going back for more?

Do you think she will keep stealing cars?


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