Small Admissions

Amy Poeppel

“’Don’t fall in love with applicants. Just because you love them doesn’t mean we can take them and just because we take them doesn’t mean they’ll come.’
‘I don’t think I’m likely to care all that much.’
‘That would be an asset if it’s true, but we’ll have to wait and see.’
Kate stopped scribbling and looked up at her. ‘I’m going to get fired.’”

Small Admissions was exactly what I needed to get out of a reading slump! After the holidays I started several books but got distracted or bored before I even hit the halfway point. At first, I thought it was the books, but then I realized it was probably my own issue. I had heard about this new novel and decided it might be just the thing to clear my head and put me back in the reading mood. I was right!

This novel follows Kate Pearson, a bright young academic, through a particularly rough period in her life. After being dumped by her French beau, Kate takes to pyjamas and her couch and nothing seems to be able to break her cycle of despair. When Kate’s sister sets her up on an interview for a position as an admissions assistant at an elite New York City private school, everything changes. Despite the embarrassing and completely unprofessional impression Kate makes at the interview, she is given the job. Navigating through the elite boarding school world of rich parents and bratty kids gets Kate back on her feet professionally and romantically in this funny and charming read.

This novel is simple and easy to follow, the characters seem real but not particularly complex and the writing is clear and effective. While this story isn’t one that is likely to stay with me very long after finishing it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked how the dynamics between Kate and her sister, parents and friends changed and evolved in surprising ways over the course of the novel. There were quite a few twists that I was not expecting, which made this quite a fun read. I also really enjoyed the inside look at the rich, entitled parents willing to do just about anything to ensure their child gets a spot in the top schools. My favourite aspect of the novel was the letters and application forms that were included from the various students applying to the private school Kate works for. The letters are charming, bratty and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. They do an excellent job of showing another side of this story.

One thing that initially bothered me while reading Small Admissions was the seemingly stereotypical image of the smart, nerdy girl who falls apart over a man and is unable to pull herself together and move on. Without spoiling too much of the story I can say that this particular quibble was somewhat resolved later on in the book.

I was also bothered by the book’s representation of mental health. While it was pretty clear to me that Kate was troubled by severe mental health issues early on in the novel, many of the characters make comments to the effect of “get over it,” “move on,” “stop moping around” and “just get back on your feet.” While two of the private school parents do receive one form of therapy in this novel, no mention is ever made of Kate seeking professional help or of her friends making a suggestion to this effect. I’m not saying this novel should have been an advertisement for mental health awareness and support, but its treatment of these issues didn’t sit quite right with me.

All in all, this book came to me at the perfect time. I read it in a day and it definitely got me out of my slump. While the story is not perfect, it is charming and interesting in ways I did not expect. This is definitely one to toss into your beach bag for a little light reading in-between your adventures this summer.

Story: 6/10
Writing: 7/10

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