A cheerfully pointed satire about the college-admissions process at a suburban Washington, D.C., high school where students and/or their parents have Ivy League aspirations.
In the spring of their junior year, Harry, Maya and Taylor are surprised to find each other at an admissions-information session at Yates, a small upstate New York college each high-schooler assumes is below the others’ expectations. Harry, better known as AP Harry, is one of those obnoxiously perfect kids who loves tests and has his heart set on Harvard. His divorced, hardworking mother, Grace, worries that Harry is too driven to excel, which is why she drags him to see Yates. Maya’s not-quite-stereotypical East Asian parents expect swim-star Maya to follow her sister into the Ivies, but well-adjusted, easy-going Maya knows she is merely a good student, not exceptional. Taylor’s mother, who never went to college, is desperate to have Taylor go somewhere more prestigious than Yates, but Taylor, whose relationship with her mother is prickly at best, falls in love with the school. As the admissions season progresses, Harry resents suggestions that he apply to the Univ. of Maryland as a fallback. Under pressure from her parents to raise her grades, Maya temporarily quits the swim team, but when she fills in at a meet, she breaks a state record. She is then wooed by USC, much to her parents’ relief. Taylor, whose application essay is disarmingly honest, is deferred from Yates. Yates admissions officer Olivia has been overwhelmed by the surge in overqualified applicants since a technical glitch listed the mediocre school as 50th on U.S. News & World Report’s list of top colleges. Bored and cynical about the process she oversees, Olivia is moved by Taylor’s application and invites her for a personal interview that ensures Taylor’s acceptance.
While readers will root for these kids, Coll’s affection for her targets does not detract from her bite.