GETTING IN by James Finney Boylan


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In a novel so light it threatens to drift free of the reader’s imagination with the first decent rerun of The Paper Chase, Boylan (The Planets, 1991; The Constellation, 1994) has contrived a fiction lacking in the richness of plot that made his earlier work such a hoot yet neglects to supply the compensations of well-developed characters, whose maturation is the theme here. Boylan makes admirable efforts to broaden the inert genre of Ivy League-style, white, proto-materialist teenhood by incorporating the parents of the hopeful youth here—who are trying to gain admission to at least one of nine New England colleges—into the cathartic tale. Ostensibly, the mission that sets the story in motion begins as Juddy (surfer dude), Polo (yuppie), Dylan (sensitive and shy), and Allison (sensitive and not shy) join adults Lefty, Ben, and Chloâ—who, in varying degrees, are parents to the three—in a Winnebago to travel the Ivy League circuit, with the teens interviewing at each stop. Ben and Lefty are brothers, whose latent rivalry is spiked with hidden secrets, while Chloâ, Lefty’s wife, is torn in her emerging affection for Ben. Mismatched lovers Allison and Polo are brought to their better senses somewhere around Connecticut, and Dylan comes to terms with his grief-tarnished past, ultimately getting the girl in a Wesleyan graveyard. While Boylan’s premise—that this stressful ordeal forces on everyone life-changing examinations of past and present—is exhausted fairly early; the sustaining. ambition of each member of the group seems to be: How to get sex with (select member of party) in good conscience? (Answer: Place friends in stressbox and shake.) Thus, the tiresome sexual irony of the title. Despite some genuine humor—particularly during the interviews themselves—Boylan’s uninspired creation suffers from another symptom of creative fatigue: improbably tidy resolutions of the half-dozen, imprecisely explored anxieties that salt the proceeding.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-446-67417-6
Page count: 352pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1998