Admission

Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel Admission begins with a wonderful first sentence: “The flight from Newark to Hartford took no more than fifty-eight minutes, but she still managed to get her heart broken three times.”

She is Portia Nathan, an admissions officer for Princeton University. Portia is dedicated to her work, and throws herself headlong into her charge of seeking out the most exceptional 17 and 18-year-olds in every application pile. She must parse out the blandly exceptional from the brilliant, constantly aware that any decision that she and her colleagues makes will make a student and family either ecstatic, angry or crushed. But even as Portia holds the lives of young scholars in her hands, her own life begins to fall apart around her.

When we meet Portia, she has been in college admissions at Dartmouth and then Princeton for the last 16 years. She has been in a long-term, stable relationship with Mark, an English professor at Princeton. But after returning from her first trip through New England prep and high schools (she was reassigned from the West Coast), Portia returns with her fair share of secrets and discovers that Mark has his own. And when Portia’s 60-year-old hippie mother in Vermont takes in a pregnant teen, Portia’s past comes back to haunt her.

The world of academic achievement, parental aspirations and legacy alums is laid bare in Korelitz’s novel, and she brilliantly casts the New England of exclusive boarding schools and Ivy-League families. But Admission is essentially a novel about character. I found the world that Korelitz creates utterly absorbing, and entertaining as well. Admission is another book that is making its rounds through my library–a new darling in our midst.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

1 Comment on "Admission"

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  1. linda.johns@spl.org' Linda J. says:

    I enjoyed this book on so many levels, but I did wish I’d waited to read it with a book group. Then again, it would be easy for the discussion in my group) to digress to admissions policies since many of us are parents of high school and college students. Anyway, this is a solid novel through and through.

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