Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Admissions by Nancy Lieberman

Summary: The Tuesday after Labor Day marks the official start of private school admission season, the affluent Manhattan parents' version of blood sport. But for Helen Drager, mother of Zoe, it shouldn't be such an ordeal. After all, Helen's best friend Sara is an admissions officer at Zoe's current K-8. But Sara's position becomes more precarious, and Helen soon finds herself drawn ever deeper into the mounting lunacy generated by the fierce competition. Will her husband, a TV Food Network producer, consent to creating a show around the Headmistress of the Fancy Girls School to give Zoe an edge there?If so, it just might help her compete with her former friend Claire, whose family vacation in Provence was devoted to ingratiating themselves to the Headmistress who runs a cooking school there. Helen depends on her friendship with Sara to help her through this troubled time - but Sara has problems of her own. Her boss, Pamela, Head of The School, is growing drunk with her own power, making capricious decisions about school admissions policy, kowtowing to celebrity children in ways that are strictly against the school's philosophy, and just plain disappearing from sight during school hours. Will Pamela undermine the reputation of The School? Will Zoe get into the school of her choice? Will the Dragers have to donate a small nation to accomplish this goal?

My Review: Let me begin by saying that when I picked up this book I believed it would be a satire on the Kindergarten admissions process that families on the East coast partake in. I thought I would be laughing out loud at all the crazy antics these people go through in order to get their child into the "right" school. I did not get any of this and, therefore, am very disappointed.
This book turned out to focus more on the high school admissions process for the children that went to a K-8 school, otherwise refereed to in the book as The School. It also focused on the Head of the School, Pamela, and how corrupt she was by accepting bribes for referrals and so on. It did touch on the Kindergarten admissions process by including a character, Sara, who worked under Pamela and was supposed to be in charge of interviewing and accepting Kindergarten. admissions. However discussion on the Kindergarten parents seeking admissions was limited and a lot of what was there was over-the-top.
Overall, I feel the book was poorly written. The author seemed to forget details included in the previous pages and then switch things up in the following chapters. Her characters were unbelievable. The 8th graders did not act like adolescents and the adults spoke more like teens. One of the main mothers in the book, Helen, is quoted as saying "Icchh" in every other sentence she speaks. It's fairly annoying. Another thing a found extremely distracting was the relationship between Helen and another 8th grade father. I did not feel this almost-affair fit well with the book and was just thrown into the story in a failed attempt to add some entertainment value.
On a more positive note the titles chosen for the schools were somewhat humorous, i.e. The Pretty Gil's School, The Progressive School, The School for Brainy Girls, etc. Also I think this book will bring up some pretty interesting discussion points during book club including doing what is best for our children rather than for our personal images and the undue pressure finding the "right" school may put on our children.
To sum it up, this is not a book I would recommend. I will not be reading it again, not will I be searching for other books by the same author (in fact I will probably avoid them at all costs). Had it not been a book club selection, I would have probably not bothered finishing it.

My Rating: 1.5 Stars, the worst book I have read in a long time.

If I had to sum this book up in one phrase it would be: Icchh, not at all what I expected.


MindySue said...

Okay, so I started this book yesterday and I wasn't going to read this review, but it editing other areas of the blog I did notice you gave it one star and then convinced myself that I could just read a little bit about it. I did. Just the last four lines of your review...which make me wonder, how bad a friend would I be if I stopped reading it entirely? I'll keep trying if you want me to....

Heather said...

Don't feel like you have to finish the book by any means. I certainly won't be offended. That being said, both Benedicte and Kim enjoyed the book more than I did, so you may have actually like it if you decide to continue reading. Either way come to book club as you will add to the discussion, which I'm sure won't be entirely focused on the novel itself.


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