Coll, Susan (2007). New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. ISBN-10: 0374237190/ ISBN-13: 978-0374237196
Like Hacking Harvard, more App Lit. AP Harry takes every possible class and activity that will help him get into Harvard, even though he already has a full scholarship to the University of Maryland. His Indian neighbor Maya, a champion swimmer from an overachieving family, is fading under the pressure, and their weird classmate Taylor is stealing people’s mail while she searches for a college which meets her primary criteria: possessing a private bathroom. The students visit colleges, take high-stakes exams, and exhaust themselves with academics and activities. Harry’s tired single biologist mom, Grace, tries to mitigate Harry’s natural-born ambition, while Taylor’s crazy ‘helicopter parent’, Nina, whose marriage is falling apart, adds to Taylor’s pressure to excel. Meanwhile the narrative settles in on Yates College in Upstate New York, which is benefiting from the admissions hysteria, and its unsavory staff of administrators and academics, among them Olivia, a disgruntled admissions officer who is having an affair with an egotistical married professor. The book follows the students till the envelopes come in the mail (which now, of course, is replaced with a mouse click), but not all the situations are resolved, and predictably, things don’t go quite as predicted.
Kids going through the process might be comforted by the fact that the adults come off much worse that the kids in this satire on the brutal college admissions process. Three kids from the same neighborhood—“AP Harry”(because he’s taken every AP class available at his school), Maya, a champion swimmer, and Taylor, who, under the admissions pressure has begun to steal the neighborhood mail, make their way through Senior year.
For those about to endure it ,or those who have children involved in this process, this book has an interest not necessarily created by its disjointed plot. Many of the adult characters seem to be crazy, and while that may be an accurate reflection of college guidance counselors, admissions officers, and parents, it doesn’t make the characters real enough to care about. The younger characters are drawn with more detail and dimension, though some of their behavior never really becomes understandable. The prose and dialogue are sharp, and the conventions and responses of the whole college application grind—the tour guides, the anxious visitors, the desperate parents, are very accurate reflections of familiar recent experiences.
About the author
Susan Coll is the mother of three college age children. Acceptance was her third novel.
Counselors should have an App Lit shelf!
Contrast the two mothers, Grace and Nina
Would Taylor be happy at Yates?
Yashequana woman and her real-life counterparts
Reading Level/Interest Age
High school-adult (SLJ)
Mild sexual situations
Reviews excerpted on http://us.macmillan.com/acceptance