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.