Admission

by Julie Buxbaum

“The cops are already here.

My mother is led to a waiting car, and they do the hand-on-the-head thing while she ducks into her seat, and for a second, before I remember what’s happening, even though they are gentle, I wince. My mom hates anyone, other than her stylist, touching her hair. She’s convinced she’s thinning at the back ever since an unflattering paparazzo shot of her scalp, exposed on a windy day, was featured on the cover of Star with the headline INSIDE ‘MISSY’S’ CANCER SCARE!

Thirty seconds later, my phone beeps in my pocket and a New York Times alert reports what I’ve witnessed in real time.
The headline: JOY FIELDS, SITCOM STAR, ARRESTED ON MULTIPLE FRAUD CHARGES IN COUNTRYWIDE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL.

And that’s when I know: This is all my fault.”

Ratings & Reviews

Book Grade: A

Admission is a tricky book. How do you tackle a challenging contemporary issue that is incredibly divisive, yet make the protagonist likeable and relatable? Buxbaum has done it. Chloe is a character for whom reades can’t help but feel empathy, but in the same breath, find themselves frustrated with. In part, her ignorance with regards to school and academics is entirely believable – there are so many high school students who don’t start thinking about grades until they start thinking about college applications. Chloe is also a child of privilege – she has grown up in a wealthy household with very few challenges in her way. Ultimately, when she finds out that her parents were involved in this scandal, she questions their motives. Did they not think that she could get in on her own? Is she not smart enough to pass the SAT without accommodations? It is in these moments that we see a teenager who is filled with doubt about her present and the future and it was in these moments that I was most drawn to Admission.

While the story can be difficult – how could a teenager not suspect anything when her parents ask for a photo for her application? – I think at the heart of it, it is about the lies that we are willing to tell ourselves in order to get where we feel we need to be. This book caused me to think a lot and wonder how many of my students have found themselves in similar situations. The book does wrap things up, so there is definitely closure, but it also leaves some things unanswered allowing readers to ponder some pretty important questions.

As an added bonus, I loved how Buxbaum included little Easter eggs – gems from past books that are seamlessly incorporated into the story and will only be noticed by true fans. I encourage readers to dive in, but look for the little nuggets from past books to fully appreciate Buxbaum’s work.

Movie Rating: PG-13

Admission has some hints of scandal (besides the obvious central plot), but for the most part, there is nothing shocking. There are references to underage drinking, mention of the possibility of sex, and some swearing. One character has a serious drug addition and the impacts of that are thoughtfully outlined, but the consequences to their actions impact the characters dramatically which may resonate with some students.

Another theme that comes up that – while not inappropriate may hit a nerve with some – is the focus on one character’s race with regards to their college applications. Notions of poverty, scholarships, and access to quality education are discussed as this character tries to navigate an education system that favors zip codes and connections rather than hard work and ability.

There are the obvious plot points of cheating and deception, and these are discussed in a lovely and thoughtful manner allowing readers to reflect on them and consider where they themselves draw the line.

Would I Buy This for My Library: Yes

Julie Buxbaum has a knack for tapping into how teenagers think and feel. Admission is a treat and reflects the anxiety and fear that surrounds so much of the college admissions process. It also helps to put it into perspective and may perhaps reassure students that everything will be alright as they go through the journey. This book is timely and relevant and while it might not be as well received in a few years when the real-life admissions scandal has cooled down, it is sure to be a hit right now.

Summary:

Admission is a ripped-from-the-headlines story about Chloe Wynn Berringer – a privileged California girl whose admission to a private university is revoked after it is revealed that her parents paid to have her accepted at the college of her choice. Although fictional, Buxbaum does a wonderful job bringing to life the characters who help humanize the complex scandal and raising the question of how much do we have to know about the truth to know when it is a lie.

Chloe, a mediocre student at an elite prep school in California, isn’t sure what life holds for her after she graduates. Her best friend is brilliant and hard working, and determined to get into an Ivy League school. Chloe’s crush is also top of the class and striving for an elite university. Even Isla, Chloe’s younger, but oh-so-much-wiser, sister is dedicated to her college plan of Harvard or Yale. Chloe feels adrift and when her parents seems dead-set on the fact that she can get into SCC, a nearby private university, she has her doubts. Although Chloe is along for the ride – testing accommodations, application counseling, and mysterious charitable donations – she begins to suspect that something is wrong. Her celebrity mom and wealthy dad are incredibly loving, but she can’t help but question how much they trust her ability to get into college on her own merits.

Told through present-day events and flashback recollections, Admission is a gripping realistic fiction novel that brings to life a story that fascinated the nation. How can someone not know that their parents cheated to get them into the university of their choice? Is the student to blame? With Chloe at the helm, Admission is a hit for fans of Buxbaum’s realistic contemporary novels which blend truth with fiction.

Book Talk Questions:

  1. Explain how Isla and Chloe are different. What similarities do they reveal toward the end of the book?
  2. What causes Chloe to suspect that something in her application process is wrong? Who does she reveal this to? Who does she not reveal it to?
  3. What does Chloe realize about her work ethic? What does she wonder about regarding her effort?
  4. Who shows up to the Berringer house? Why is this both a burden and ultimately a reminder of the gravity of the situation?
  5. What does Isla decide to do regarding school? What happens to her at the end of the book?

A Perfect Read for Fans Of…

  • Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum
  • What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
  • How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian

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