Published by Delacorte Press on December 1, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Julie Buxbaum’s new novel Admission is a timely and relevant read that takes an inside look at a college admissions scandal. The novel contains clear parallels to the recent admissions scandal involving actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin as it explores what happens when those who are rich and privileged enough to already have the deck stacked in their favor decide that still isn’t enough.
Admission opens with a bang and never looks back. The protagonist of the story, Chloe Wynn Berringer, awakens to the sound of the doorbell ringing and watches helplessly as her world unravels around her. Her mom, a famous celebrity, is led away in handcuffs, and as Chloe soon learns while watching the news, her mother has gotten caught up in a college admissions scandal while trying to bribe Chloe’s way into her college of choice. The story then progresses, very effectively using dual timelines, “now” and “then”, to follow Chloe and her family as they deal with the fallout from the scandal and to show what happened to lead to the moment where the FBI came knocking.
I have to admit that my feelings for her and for her family were very ambivalent. Like the general public, I was furious to learn the lengths these rich, entitled folks would go to in order to take what they wanted, even if it meant taking an admissions slot that should have gone to a more-deserving student. To Buxbaum’s credit though, she brings Chloe and her family to life in such a way that I wanted to learn more about them and understand their motivations and wanted to know if they had any understanding or remorse for how their actions impacted other families. In the same regard, Chloe’s journey fascinated me because she really is just an all-around average person – average intelligence, average grades, average school activities, etc. There is nothing stand-out about her aside from that her family has money, so there’s no way she should have had her pick of colleges. Although Chloe comes across as dense and naïve, I found it hard to believe that she was completely blindsided by what her parents had done and believed she had legitimately earned a spot at her college of choice. It soon became clear though that the novel is about more than just the actual admissions scandal; it’s also about Chloe’s exploration of whether she knowingly or unknowingly played any role in her parents’ scheme. As ambivalent as I felt about Chloe, I did really enjoy watching her grow as she tried to make sense of and learn from the experience rather than just play the victim.
My favorite characters in the novel though are actually Chloe’s best friend, Shola, and Chloe’s younger sister, Isla. I adored both of these brilliant and driven young women and that they were up close and personal examples for Chloe of how truly unfair the admissions scandal is for hard-working students who have their spots stolen by rich people. Shola is an incredibly gifted student who works hard everyday and her dream is to get into Harvard, but she needs a lot of financial aid in order for it to happen. Shola faces the real fear that she will be rejected in favor of a privileged student who doesn’t need aid. And then poor Isla. Like Shola, Isla is brilliant and a hard worker whose dream is to attend Yale and based on her grades, test scores, and overall amazing transcript, she should be able to get in pretty much anywhere on her own merits. But is her name now tainted because of what her parents did for Chloe? Where I had minimal sympathy for Chloe, these two young ladies had all of my sympathy and they were the two I found myself hardcore rooting for as I was reading.
If you’re in the mood for a compulsively readable family drama with a “ripped from the headlines” vibe, look no further than Julie Buxbaum’s new novel, Admission. You won’t be able to put it down!