I have a masters degree in higher education with an emphasis in counseling and I am continually drawn to books dealing with college admissions, both fiction and non-fiction. (Some of the ones I’ve read recently: The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College [non-fiction] and Admission [fiction].) I just think that area of higher education is so fascinating and I would love to spend a year or two as an admissions counselor. Mostly I just want to read the essays. Anyhow.
Susan Coll’s Acceptance is the story of several kids in an affluent community as they attempt to get into college during their senior year of high school. It’s broken down in a month-by-month format, with one chapter representative of one month, which I thought was a really awesome structural decision by Coll. I remember in high school being given a month-by-month breakdown of what I should be doing in terms of the college application process (and my mom, who teaches 12th grade English, still gives something like that out to her seniors each year), so the structure of the novel pleased me because of that. The chapters alternate, not regularly, between the students and their parents, and between the Interim Dean of Admissions at Yates, a woman named Oliva.
Truthfully, there wasn’t really anything terribly original about this novel. Kids getting into college… Yeah, it’s been done. But I liked those kids, and I could relate to a lot of them and the pressure they felt. Some, like AP Harry, I found more annoying and condescending than others, like Taylor, who I really, really liked. I’ve read a few reviews recently that said the book the reviewer was reviewing was easily forgettable, and that’s the case with this one, I think. Because it’s your run-of-the-mill book about college acceptance, it’s not going to stick in people’s minds, but it’s fun to read while it’s happening (mostly because I wanted to see where the assorted students got in and went to college).
There were two things that kind of irritated me. First of all, Oliva’s sections. Well, actually, that’s not true. I thought the inclusion of the Dean of Admissions was a valid one. What I thought was absurd, however, was all the garbage about her having an affair with one of her coworkers. I kept asking myself what the point was and what it added to the book. The answer: it didn’t. I just got distracted during those parts. So irritating. The other think I found mildly irritating (SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!) is how very briefly Taylor’s self-mutilation is mentioned. That’s a pretty serious thing to bring up, and then to barely mention it for the rest of the book? In my opinion, Coll did a major disservice to kids who are dealing with that issue because she makes it seem trite, and it’s not.
Overall impression? Don’t read it if you’re a parent whose kid is about to apply to college, and don’t read it if you’re that kid. Otherwise, take a gander. Maybe you’ll like it.