The most original admissions essay seen since Legally Blonde.



A 14-year old pens a premature and very precocious admissions essay in Levangie’s quirky latest (The After Wife, 2012, etc.).

Perry Gonzales, daughter of “the estimable Yelena Maria Gonzales, R.N.” a hardworking single mother, is tendering her application to Bennington College, four years early. This scholarship student, who commutes from rough North Hollywood to the exclusive Mark Frost Academy in Beverly Hills, is already anticipating her future as a writer, a career that can only be advanced by attending the same Vermont college that produced Bret Easton Ellis and Donna Tartt. Her personal essay, as such essays must, demonstrates community service and extracurricular components: in Perry’s case, her thriving small business tutoring her privileged, spoiled and tragically flawed Mark Frost classmates. Each of the seven tutoring assignments she details is a mini-allegory about a deadly sin, complete with illustrations (not seen.) Lust involves the cossetted daughter whose birthday wish, a backyard concert by the boy band du jour, has unexpected consequences for her neglected, studious brother. Two of the anecdotes, Wrath and Greed, detail unorthodox, some would say criminal, methods for coping with sociopathic children. In Gluttony and Sloth, respectively, an obese student whose hunger literally knows no bounds and a video gamer whose body has atrophied except in those areas required for his all-consuming pastime suffer symbolic retribution for their excesses. As her “essay” ticks off the transgressions, some facts about Perry herself begin to emerge: She is academically gifted but humbly diligent, ever grateful and respectful toward her mother, and, where a handsome quarterback (in Pride) is concerned, as vulnerable as her airheaded Mark Frost schoolmates. As her own treatise about sin conclusively shows, it is possible to be too rich, but could Perry be too good? Although at first blush this “cautionary tale” mimics a YA novel in the Gossip Girls vein, Levangie’s conceit works on an adult level mainly due to the fact that it’s economical—too much elaboration would weigh down what is essentially a collection of frothy shaggy dog jokes.

The most original admissions essay seen since Legally Blonde.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-399-16673-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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