Monday, May 13, 2013

ADMISSION by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Publisher:   Grand Central

Date published:   January 15, 2013
ISBN:  978-1455529797
Genre:   Fiction
Book format: Paperback
Obtained via:  Publisher
Reviewed by name and email address:  Gina


Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan’s mission is to find not just the brightest and the best. It is to find the most unique and creative of the thousands of applicants who hope to enter Princeton each year. At 38 her life has been completing her own academic goals, time in admissions at Dartmouth and now at the epitome of ivy league schools-Princeton. She treats each application as if it was the only one making certain no one sees the essays where the applicants pour out their dreams. She approaches each high school class with an eye toward who will not only bring the best in ability to Princeton, but who would benefit most in turn. Her life has followed a straight and steady path. She lives with her long-time boyfriend, Mark and takes her job seriously. She is meticulous in every aspect of both. That is until she visits the Quest school in Keene, New Hampshire.

Quest is new not only to Princeton, but in years. And it is new in that the students learn more than what they find in books. At Quest she meets a teacher, John Halsey but something feels not really wrong, but simply odd to her. She has a sensation that there is more Than meets the eye about John. Somewhere on the fringes of her memory is something about the man. As she is leaving Quest John tells her where they first met and Portia flees as quickly as she can. There are things she wants to stay buried in her past. When John shows up at her hotel Portia tells herself to stay away but step by step she embarks on a path that will shake the foundations of her practical, routine, predicable and mundane life. Once those foundations are shaken can she ever go back to the life she knew?

The premise of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s ADMISSION intrigued me. My university days are behind me and in the course of apply to my undergraduate college I did meet one admissions officer. He painted a picture that left me eager to go to his school and only his school. I was stunned and thrilled when I was accepted. I hadn’t thought about those days until I picked up ADMISSION to read and review. A woman admissions officer, holding the future of innumerable students in her hands. Choosing the next generation of graduates. And the hint of how her carefully built life would unravel in the pages.

I was disappointed. There is an inordinate amount of back story told in the omniscient point of view. Paragraphs run so long you often need to go back and see just where the thread began. The back story is, for the most part, pretty dull. Portia seems much older than her 38 years. She comes across self-absorbed and kind of boring.

Because of how much of the book is told in the omniscient point of view the reader reads about Portia’s emotions, but never gets to the core of them. There is no visceral reaction to be had in the pages. I suspect this is one instance where the movie, staring Tina Fey, will be much better than the book.

ADMISSION would be a good read for a parent whose child is on the beginning of planning for their college life. It has some food for thought, particularly in what does and does not work in the all important essay. For someone on the brink of a midlife crisis it may offer some food for thought and provide a sense of normalcy.  For me the book simply did not work.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.


No comments: