Posted by Lizzie on 03/15/07
We liked high school. We did well in high school. We like books about high school. So we tried to read that Marisha Pessl book. Well, we didn’t try that hard. We read the first page and a half and said NO WAY, NOT IN THIS LIFETIME, IT’S NOT HAPPENING. So thank God for Susan Coll’s Acceptance, which elbowed the Pessl off the bedside table with a digusted thump.
We could go on and on about how actually fine humorous writing is often discounted and overlooked, as is a deft satire, but then we’d say more things like “deft satire” and you’d be bored. We could also go into the marvelous plot, but it’s been months since we read the galley and excitedly emailed the publicist and were like WE LOVED THIS, so that’s pretty much what we’re left with at this juncture. LUCKILY FOR YOU–FSG has very graciously allowed us to post a bit from the start of the book, and has also offered one giveaway copy to a lucky Old Hag entrant.
We thought long and hard about what the challenge should be for all of you, and decided it was easy: just write us with the school you wanted to get into and didn’t. Then we’d laugh, and give it to one of you, so you’d finally have something you tried for in your miserable life. So that’s the challenge.*
But this book gave me great pleasure, so please enjoy, and if you don’t win, please buy:
Grace reminded herself that she had resolved not to get sucked into this snakepit of parental competition. Study after study showed that there was no correlation between where a person went to college and his or her future happiness, or even earning power. She knew plenty of people who had underachieved in their youth and had gone on to do great things. And she could cite many examples of the reverse—kids who burned out by the time they got to college or simply couldn’t cope without their parents micromanaging their lives; she had heard of some parents who even called their college kids to wake them up for morning classes. But it was hard to step back when everyone at Harry’s high school, students and parents alike, spoke of little else, and the kids were all jockeying to get into the same handful of schools. At a recent junior parents’ meeting, the head of guidance had rattled off a series of sobering statistics, including the fact that from this year’s class of 496 graduating seniors, 53 had applied to Cornell, 57 to Northwestern, and 59 to the University of Pennsylvania. All of them had GPAs over 3.8. About ten kids were admitted to each school, and five were accepted to all three. As Grace pondered these numbers, she couldn’t help but think that ironically, this would make a good math problem on the SAT. On the subject of identifying the right safety school, the guidance counselor had referenced the terrifying, widely gossiped about, and evidently true story of the National Merit finalist who applied to twelve schools and didn’t get into a single one.
Sometimes when she heard these anxiety-inducing anecdotes, Grace wondered whether she had been smart to remain in the area after her divorce. She had stretched herself financially, heavily mortgaging their house, because this was arguably one of the best public school systems not just in the state, but in the country. But lately she had begun to think she had done Harry a disservice by staying. Perhaps he would be driving himself less hard, and would have a better sense of perspective, if she had relocated to some small town in the Midwest. And even if she was wrong about that—if this college mania had reached into the most remote pockets of America—at least a community of less means might have other sorts of benefits, like fewer kids with credit cards, or a lower percentage of luxury cars in the student parking lot.
Still, Grace tried hard not to let Harry’s preoccupation become her own. She knew there were hundreds of good colleges out there, some of which she had never even heard of before, like Yates. She had done just fine going to the University of Maryland, which had been the only school her parents could afford. It hand never occurred to her to feel shortchanged. She always felt she’d received a perfectly decent education and hand not suffered, apart from the unfortunate fact that she had met Lou in an anatomy class and made the mistake of marrying him.
As it was, Harry was most definitely part of the problem, if not the most extreme version of it around. He had memorized the U.S. News & World Report rankings of the top fifty liberal arts colleges as well as the separate list of universities—those offering both doctorates and masters—and he frequently asked Grace to quiz him to see if he had his numbers straight. At first Grace played along, not fully grasping the point of the exercise. But once she realized the pathos of what he was doing—obsessing about whether Pomona ranked 7 or 8 and how many points that was above, say, Oberlin (14)—she refused to play, even when Harry insisted that he was just sharpening his memory retention skills.
* NB: Actually, we only applied to one school. It is one of a pair of traditional rivals, the former of which has finals before Christmas break, the latter after. There was no way we were going on break and then TAKING FINALS. Our best friend did the same thing for the same reason and we remain best friends to this day and we’re not sorry.
NB 2: The other night we were sitting around the dining room table with two of the geniuses of our day. (Seriously, we’re not the only ones who say that or anything.) Because nerds are pretty much always nerds, we all remembered our SATs. We shared. And Omigod OLD HAG HAD THE HIGHEST AND DID NOT HELP WITH THE DISHES and is so lazy she would not trade either for being a genius of our day.
NB 3: We haven’t forgotten about the other challenge! Once we have a chance we will GET THAT POLL UP, CZECHS be damned.