Acceptance by Susan Coll

Now, see, this is exactly why I didn’t want to start writing my reviews all out of order. I confused myself this morning , and I could not remember without looking what the book was that I read between Eat, Pray, Love and Cures for Heartbreak. That’s right, I read Eat, Pray, Love first. Do you feel deceived? I am sorry. Sometimes I have more to say about a book, and I want to get my thoughts out there.

That’s not to say I didn’t like Acceptance. It was just what I needed after Eat, Pray, Love – something funny and biting. I can only do sincere for so long.

Acceptance
is a satire about the college application process, focusing on three students: Harry, who wants desperately to go to Harvard; Taylor, whose mother keeps pushing her towards prestigious colleges, but who really just wants a dorm room with a private bathroom; and Maya, who, while smart, cannot live up to the standards of her older siblings.

Mixed in with these three characters are their parents and the dean of admissions at a small liberal arts college that is (accidentally) on the rise in US News and World Report‘s listings, each with their own personal source of stress.

What I liked about this book was that I could recognize the insanity of the college application process while also keeping some distance from it. I went to a state school that offered me a scholarship, and I don’t regret it. The idea of all that pressure to get into the right school is a huge turnoff. What worried me, though was the idea that maybe, one day, I’ll have to go through these things with our kids. And the idea of college coaches and SAT prep and the right summer activities and the right volunteer work is totally stressful! I am not qualified to help anybody navigate all those things! But I also want to encourage my kids to aim high. What’s the balance there?

The best thing about this book was that the characters were people I cared about, and the author clearly cared about them too. In the end, everybody didn’t end up exactly where they’d expected, but we were given the reassurance that they were going to be okay, which is more important anyway. I closed it and thought, “A sweet and satisfying ending to a very funny story.”

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