Engaging and inspiring, but without significant purpose in an overcrowded topic.




Another look at the college-admissions process—this time through the experiences of an influential Long Island guidance counselor and seven of his students.

When Pulitzer Prize–winning education reporter Marcus moved from U.S. News & World Report to Newsday, he noticed that the area’s highest acceptance rates were coming from a relatively small, unknown school—the diverse Oyster Bay High School—and that the mitigating factor was an especially committed counselor named Gwyeth “Smitty” Smith. To determine what made Smitty so successful, Marcus followed him through the process, focusing in particular on seven students. There was the underachieving athlete with the big heart and difficult home life; the engineering hopeful with an overbearing mother; the well-rounded Jewish girl who worried that she wouldn’t stand out; the overworked African-American who would be the first in her family to go to college; the intellectual Korean-American who wasn’t sure he could live up to his family’s expectations; the free-spirited girl who couldn’t focus; and the valedictorian who never had to worry. Marcus’s portraits are honest and interesting, and some of the outcomes are quite surprising, thanks in part to the counselor who encouraged the students to think outside the box, even when it meant defying parents or preconceived notions about reputation. Smitty is clearly an excellent counselor who goes to great lengths to make sure his students make the right choices—negotiating work hours with a student’s employer to make sure she had enough time to study, seeking out admissions officers at conferences to talk about specific students. But while it’s encouraging to read about a counselor more committed to the students’ well-being than the number of Ivy League acceptances on his rap sheet, there’s nothing particularly revolutionary or illuminating about his practices, and readers may struggle to find a takeaway message that hasn’t been covered in countless other college-admissions books—including Jacques Steinberg’s The Gatekeepers (2002) and by Jay Mathews’s Harvard Schmarvard (2003).

Engaging and inspiring, but without significant purpose in an overcrowded topic.

Pub Date: July 27, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59420-214-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet